A tax on sugary drinks could be part of "bold and urgent" action introduced to tackle childhood obesity, a committee of MPs has said.
Health experts, politicians and the public have frequently debated over the effects of introducing a 'sugar tax' on fizzy drinks over the past year. But the Commons' Health Committee now says that there is "compelling evidence" to show that such a tax would reduce consumption of sugary drinks. It pointed to a 10% tax introduced by Mexico, which saw fizzy drink consumption fall 6%.
In its report, the committee also proposes new rules on marketing and advertising of sugary drinks. It wants to extend current restrictions to all forms of media, including television, social media, in cinemas and on apps. It also recommends banning advertising for sugary drinks on all programming that children are likely to watch, rather than just children-specific content.
The government has previously said it does not favour a tax on sugary drinks. It is due to publish its strategy on tackling childhood obesity next year. But the Commons' Health Committee stressed that there is no single solution to the problem.
Committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston said: "We believe that if the government fails to act, the problem will become far worse.
"A full package of measures is required and should be implemented as soon as possible."
TV chef Jamie Oliver recently told ministers that introducing a tax on sugary drinks was the "single most important" thing that could be done to reduce consumption. Earlier this year, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which advises Public Health England, said that fizzy drinks is the single biggest source of sugar for 11-18 year olds. People in the age group are recommended to get less than 5% of their energy from sugary drinks, but that figure is 12-15%.
Critics of the idea of a 'sugar tax' have said it would be unfair on consumers, and the drinks industry. Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright said: "No-one seems to have considered hard-pressed consumers in all this. Consumers already pay billions in VAT on food and drink.
"As a result of the arbitrary new tax recommended by the committee, which, if introduced, would inevitably be increased year-on-year and extended to other foods, would leave consumers paying significantly more, every week, for the products they love."