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Fat Tax On Sugary Drinks Urged By Doctors

(c) Sky News 2013

Britain's doctors want the cost of sugary drinks increased by a fifth and a ban on unhealthy food in hospitals, according to reports.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges says the moves would help to break the cycle of "generation after generation falling victim to obesity-related illnesses and death".

The Guardian cited a report by the academy which says doctors are "united" in seeing obesity as the greatest public health crisis facing the UK.

The academy said government efforts so far have been "piecemeal and disappointingly ineffective", given the scale of the problem.

Figures show that one in four adults in England is obese. Obesity can lead to heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

The academy's chairman, Professor Terence Stephenson, said the report did not claim to offer a full solution to obesity, but "it does say we need together to do more, starting right now, before the problem becomes worse and the NHS can no longer cope".

Its recommendations include an experimental 20% tax on sugary soft drinks for at least a year, to see what effect it has on sales.

The academy believes the potential £1bn annual tax yield could help fund an increase in weight management programmes.

Local councils are also urged to limit the number of fast food outlets near schools and leisure centres.

And NHS staff should routinely talk to overweight patients about their eating and exercise habits, the report adds.

Chef and anti-obesity campaigner Jamie Oliver welcomed the report as "the clearest warning sign yet that the medical profession is deeply concerned about obesity".

But the Food and Drink Federation , which represents produce manufacturers, said the report was a "damp squib" that added "little to an important debate".

The British Soft Drinks Association said its products accounted for just 2% of calories in an average diet and it is what people consume overall that needs to be addressed.

Its director-general Gavin Partington said: "Over the last 10 years, the consumption of soft drinks containing added sugar has fallen by 9% while the incidence of obesity has been increasing, and 61% of soft drinks now contain no added sugar.

"Soft drinks companies are also committing to further, voluntary action as part of the Government's Responsibility Deal Calorie Reduction Pledge.

"Don't forget that there already is a 20% tax on soft drinks, 10p out of every 60p can of drink already goes to the Government thanks to VAT.

"Putting up taxes even further will put pressure on people's purses at a time when they can ill afford it," he added.

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