A 20% sugar tax on sugary drinks has been called for by the British Medical Association (BMA), to subsidise the sale of fruit and vegetables and tackle obesity.
A third of Brits are projected to be obese by 2030, and the BMA report Food for Thought highlights the need for action to promote healthier diets, particularly among children and young people.
It also calls for new legislation to ensure that all of the 3,500 academies and 200 free schools in England adhere to the same mandatory food standards as state schools, such as not serving soft drinks and providing at least one portion of fruit every day.
Professor Sheila Hollins, BMA board of science chair, said: “Doctors are increasingly concerned about the impact of poor diet, which is responsible for up to 70,000 deaths a year, and has the greatest impact on the NHS budget, costing £6bn annually.
“We know from experiences in other countries that taxation on unhealthy food and drinks can improve health outcomes, and the strongest evidence of effectiveness is for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. If a tax of at least 20 per cent is introduced, it could reduce the prevalence of obesity in the UK by around 180,000 people.
The BMA also recommended that the price of fruit and vegetables is subsidised, to encourage a healthier diet.
The price of fruit and vegetables has risen more than 30 per cent since the start of the recession, with the majority of the population not consuming them at the recommended levels.