Children drink a bathtub of sugary drinks each year

British youngsters are putting themselves at risk of cancer later in life by drinking a bathful of sugary drinks each year, a charity has warned.

Cancer Research UK figures suggest that children aged 11 to 18 each drink 234 cans of soft drink a year, enough to fill a bath. Even children under three drink an average of almost 70 cans of sugary fizzy drinks a year. Those aged four to ten drink about 110 cans a year.

Obese children are about five times more likely to grow into obese adults, and carrying too much weight increases the risk of cancer and other diseases, the charity warned. Under tax levies announced by the government in March, drinks with 5g of sugar per 100ml will face a lower tax rate than those with more than 8g per 100ml. Pure fruit juices will be exempt because they do not have added sugar.

The charity’s analysis of the national diet and nutrition survey found that adults and young children consumed twice the maximum recommended amount of added sugar. Youngsters aged 11 to 18 had three times the limit, with sugary drinks the main source.

The charity estimates that a 20p per litre sugar tax could prevent 3.7 million cases of obesity over the next decade.