Public support sugar tax and junk food tax - Feb 2016

Three quarters of the UK public back a ban on junk food advertising before the 9pm TV watershed, according to a new YouGov survey* published by Cancer Research UK today.

“At a time when junk food is cheap and packed with extra calories, we need stronger action to help prevent children from choosing these foods.” – Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK

And one in two support a tax on sugary drinks, which could help tackle the rising childhood obesity epidemic.

This new survey* shows strong support for the Government to act in order to fight childhood obesity, with most (82 per cent) thinking it’s a problem.

It also found that 69 per cent support reducing junk food advertising online and 66 per cent support cutting price promotions on junk food.

Almost six in 10 underestimated the proportion of overweight or obese adults in the UK according to the survey.

Being overweight and obese is a major cause of preventable illness and death in the UK, including cancer, type two diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

More than one in five children are overweight or obese when they enter primary school, and, alarmingly, this increases to one in three in year 6.

This is why Cancer Research UK is calling on the Government to take action to protect children.

Alison Cox, director of cancer prevention at Cancer Research UK, said: “Junk food is everywhere. Children are bombarded by advertising tailored to tempt them with pretty colours and cartoons which all influence the food they prefer. At a time when junk food is cheap and packed with extra calories, we need stronger action to help prevent children from choosing these foods.

“We want the Government to ban junk food adverts on TV before the 9pm watershed, put a tax on sugary drinks and enforce targets for reducing the amount of fat and sugar in food. Reducing obesity rates could save the NHS billions of pounds. And, ultimately, we owe it to future generations to reduce preventable disease caused by being overweight and obese.”

Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “To give children the best chance of a healthy future, we need to make sure there are plenty of healthy options available to them. But this is difficult when they’re exposed to lots of cheap junk food.

“Obese children are more likely to be obese as adults, which in turn increases their risk of developing cancer in later life, along with many other health problems. So it’s important that young people are encouraged to eat healthily and keep active and that healthy choices are easy to make.

“Obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking and is linked to up to 10 different types including breast, bowel, and pancreatic cancer.”


For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.


Percentage of public who support or oppose introducing a ban on junk food advertising on TV before the 9pm watershedSupport 74%
Oppose 18%
Don’t know 8%
Percentage of public who support or oppose introducing a tax on drinks with added sugarSupport 55%
Oppose 36%
Don’t know 9%
Percentage of public who think advertising junk food online should be reducedShould 69%
Shouldn’t 18%
Don’t know 12%
Percentage of public who think price promotions on junk food should be reducedShould 66%
Shouldn’t 25%
Don’t know 9%
What proportion of adults do you think are overweight or obese in the UK?1 in 10 2%
2 in 10 4%
3 in 10 13%
4 in 10 24%
5 in 10 15%
6 in 10 20% Correct
7 in 10 11%
8 in 10 3%
9 in 10 0%
10 in 10 0%
Don’t know 8%
Generally speaking, do you think there is, or is not a problem with overweight or obesity in children in the UK?Is a problem 82%
Is not a problem 8%
Don’t know 9%

* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,774 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th – 26th January 2016.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

Sugary drinks refer to drinks with added sugar.