A 20% tax on sugary soft drinks has been recommended by a major doctor’s organisation as a way of combatting the UK’s epidemic of obesity.

In its report, Measuring Up, The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges describes the UK as the ‘fat man’ of Europe with two thirds of adults either overweight or obese, and one million adults morbidly obese.

To combat this growing health crisis, the report suggests a range or measures including the tax and restrictions on licensing for fast food outlets.

It recommends: “For an initial one year, a duty should be piloted on all sugary soft drinks, increasing the price by at least 20%. This would be an experimental measure, looking at price elasticity, substitution effects, and to what extent it impacts on consumption patterns and producer/retailer responses.”

It adds that the additional £1bn generated from the tax could be used to fund weight management courses across the UK.

The report also looks at the availability of fast food for young people and says that local authorities do not appear to be using their licensing powers restrict it.

It says: “Public Health England should, in its first 18 months of operation, undertake an audit of local authority licensing and catering arrangements with the intention of developing formal recommendations on reducing the proximity of fast food outlets to schools, colleges, leisure centres and other places where children gather.”