MPs Support Sugar Tax To Combat Childhood Obesity And Call For Restriction On Junk Food Adverts

MPs and campaigners have joined the drive for a 20% sugar tax on soft drinks and a restriction on TV junk food adverts to fight childhood obesity.

The Commons Health Committee said there must be "broader and deeper controls on advertising and marketing to children" in the new report.

The group of MPs and medical campaigners said the 20% tax on sugary drinks could then raise £1bn to spend on tackling childhood obesity.

MPs say the 20% sugar tax could help raise £1 billion to spend on tackling childhood obesity.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, a GP, who chairs the health select committee, said according to PA: "We believe that if the Government fails to act, the problem will become far worse.

"We believe that a sugary drinks tax should be included in these measures with all proceeds clearly directed to improving our children’s health."

New figures published by the Health & Social Care Information Centre last week showed a third of 10 and 11-year-olds in England are overweight or obese, although obesity among younger children is falling.

According to campaign group Action on Sugar, sugar-sweetened drinks currently form 29% of sugar intake among children aged 11 to 18, and around 16% for younger children.

Treating obesity and its consequences currently costs the NHS £5.1 billion every year.

Television chef Jamie Oliver met MPs in October and urged the UK Government to be "big and bold" and introduce the sugar tax.

MPs agree with Jamie Oliver that the sugar tax could help tackle obesity in children

Oliver said a tax on sugar-sweetened soft drinks could have a valid role to play as part of a package of measures to tackle the problem of childhood obesity.

However, in October 2015, David Cameron ruled out a tax on sugar, saying there were "more effective ways of tackling" obesity according to the Independent.

Now, in the new wide-ranging report, the Commons Health Committee said the Government must not "take the easy option of relying on health education campaigns" and promoting exercise to solve the UK's obesity crisis.

The report said guidelines must also be drawn up on what constitutes a healthy school packed lunch, with teachers able to guide parents who continue to give their children unhealthy foods.

The coalition of up to 20 groups has been formed to push for the sugar tax, including the British Heart Foundation, the British Medical Association, Cancer Research UK and the Faculty of Public Health.

A member of the committee, MP Dr Davies, told Wales Online: "It does seem appropriate to me that some of our taxes should be levied in such a way that supports public health endeavours.

"When the extent of the danger posed by smoking was recognised, increasingly punitive taxes on tobacco in part were responsible for the successful campaign to tackle the habit."

The report from the Commons Health Committee addressed more than just the sugar tax.

It stated "physical exercise alone" would not solve the obesity crisis and called for tighter controls on the marketing and advertising of unhealthy food and drink.

MPs want packaging to show the number of teaspoons of sugar contained in a product.

The committee called for an end to adverts of high salt, high sugar and fatty foods on TV before the 9pm watershed.

They said "two for one" adverts and the use of cartoon characters and celebrities in children's advertising for sugary food and drink should be addressed.

Kawther Hashem, nutritionist and researcher at the campaign group Action on Sugar, said: "Parents and children are currently drowning in a world full of aggressively marketed and promoted sugary foods and drinks.

"It is time the Government took responsibility for the health of the nation and set sugar reduction targets and rules on all forms marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods and drinks."