Children as young as 11 drink the equivalent of almost a bath full of sugary drinks every year, Cancer Research UK has warned.
Figures suggest secondary school pupils (11-18) each drink just over 234 cans of soft drink a year – almost the size of an 80 litre average bathtub full.
Even toddlers aged between one and a half and three drink the equivalent of 1.34 cans of fizzy drink every week – nearly 70 a year.
Meanwhile, those aged four to 10 drink more than 110 cans of fizzy drink per year on average – almost half a bathtub – according to the analysis, based on data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.
A 330ml can of cola can contain 35g of sugar – more than the maximum sugar recommendations for a five-year-old (19g of total sugar per day) and for a child aged 11 and over (30g per day).
Alison Cox, Director of Prevention at CRUK, called the findings “shocking”.
She said: “We urgently need to stop this happening and the good news is that the Government’s sugar tax will play a crucial role in helping to curb this behaviour.
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.”
In March, the Government announced it will introduce a sugar tax on soft drinks with added sugar.
Drinks with 5g of sugar per 100ml will face a lower rate of tax ,while those with more than 8g per 100ml will face a higher rate.
The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates the levy could add 18p to 24p to the price of a litre of fizzy drink if the full cost is passed on to the consumer.
CRUK estimates that a 20p-per-litre sugar tax could prevent 3.7 million cases of obesity over the next decade.
Teenagers’ intake down, says industry
Gavin Partington, Director General of industry body the British Soft Drinks Association, said latest Government data shows that teenagers’ sugar intake from soft drinks is down by 8 per cent.
“This is not surprising since soft drinks companies’ action on reformulation and smaller pack sizes has helped drive a 17 per cent cut in sugar consumed from soft drinks since 2012,” he said.
However, Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England, said although the sugar levy is a good way to help cut intakes, children get sugar from many sources.
She said: “We’re also working with businesses and retailers to gradually take sugar out of the food children eat the most, so we can cut sugar intakes across the whole diet, not just drinks.”
A spokesman for the Obesity Health Alliance said the findings were “hugely worrying” and called on the Government to place restrictions on the advertising and marketing of junk food to children.