A spoonful of sugar? Teens consume a bathtub full a year through sugary drinks

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Children aged four to 10 drank almost 110 cans a year and teenagers guzzled over 234 cans in 2015, according to a survey from Cancer Research UK. ©iStock
Children aged four to 10 drank almost 110 cans a year and teenagers guzzled over 234 cans in 2015, according to a survey from Cancer Research UK. ©iStock

Related tags: Soft drinks, Soft drink, Nutrition

Teenagers in the UK consume around 77 litres of sugary drinks every year – enough to fill a bathtub, according to "shocking" results of a survey.

The survey carried out in 2015 found a similar pattern across all ages of children, with sugar consumption far in excess of recommended levels.

Compiled by charity Cancer Research UK, it found that pre-school children drank close to 70 cans of fizzy cola a year.

Meanwhile, children aged four to 10 drank almost 110 cans a year and teenagers guzzled over 234 cans.

The findings help support calls for measures to stem the flow of sugar consumption.

These figures are an improvement on those recorded in 2014 and it is hoped a planned UK tax on sugary drinks​ will continue to curb consumption. However critics say this is too little, too late.

UK sugar levy

teenagers school
'It’s shocking that teenagers are drinking the equivalent of a bathtub of sugary drinks a year.' ©iStock

“It’s shocking that teenagers are drinking the equivalent of a bathtub of sugary drinks a year,”​ said Alison Cox, director of prevention at Cancer Research UK.

“The Government’s sugar tax will play a crucial role in helping to curb this behaviour and the ripple effect of a small tax on sugary drinks is enormous, and it will give soft drinks companies a clear incentive to reduce the amount of sugar in drinks.

“But the Government can do more by closing the loop hole on junk food advertising on TV before the 9pm watershed. The UK has an epidemic on its hands, and needs to act now.”

Under the UK plans, soft drink makers will be charged a levy for sugar-added drinks and a total sugar content of 5 g or more per 100 ml (around 5%).

Cancer Research UK has previously shown that a 20p per litre sugar tax could prevent 3.7 million cases of obesity over the next decade.

Industry reacts

The soft drinks industry responded to the tax plans by pointing out that the government’s own Family Food Survey showed that purchases of regular soft drinks fell by 32% between 2010 and 2014, whilst low calorie drinks purchases increased by more than a third.

“The latest Government NDNS data actually shows that teenagers’ sugar intake from soft drinks is down by 8%. This is not surprising since soft drinks companies’ action on reformulation and smaller pack sizes has helped drive a 17% cut in sugar consumed from soft drinks since 2012,”​ said Gavin Partington, British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) director general.

“The soft drinks sector is ahead of the game and in 2015 became the only category to set a voluntary calorie reduction target of 20% by 2020.  We also voluntarily extended the advertising rules regarding under 16s to all online media.”

Despite the findings from Cancer research UK, the BSDA says there is no evidence that food taxes have an effect on obesity.

They pointed towards a 2013 'fat tax' in Denmark, which was later scrapped because of its economic impact along with plans for a tax on sugar.  

Additional evidence from France showed that while sales of soft drinks initially fell after a tax was introduced in 2012, they increased since.

In Mexico, a soft drinks tax reduced calorie count by six per day per person on a diet of over 3,000 calories.

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