Chair of the college’s policy group on obesity, Prof Donal O’Shea, called on the new government to follow suit to protect children.
“This is a very important step in tackling obesity,” he said. “I am encouraged by the commitment of the four main political parties to introducing a sugar tax in their recent election manifestos. It can’t come a moment too soon as we continue to battle high rates of obesity in Ireland. One in four children in Ireland is overweight or obese.”
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver also welcomed the measure in Britain saying it is a “profound move that will ripple around the world”.
Health campaigners joined those praising chancellor George Osborne for the surprise move, which goes against previous thinking from prime minister David Cameron.
Shares in listed drinks firms dropped sharply on the London stock market after the announcement in the British budget.
The tax will be levied against firms that produce sugar-sweetened drinks and brought in in two years’ time to give them a chance to drive down their sugar content.
It is part of a wider strategy from the government to tackle Britain’s childhood obesity problem.
Oliver took to Twitter and Instagram to praise the plan, saying on Instagram: “We did it guys!! we did it!!! A sugar levy on sugary sweetened drinks ...... A profound move that will ripple around the world ....business can not come between our Kids health!!
“Our kids health comes first ..... Bold, brave, logical and supported by all the right people....now bring on the whole strategy soon to come ... Amazing news.”
The tax is expected to raise £520m which will be used to double the amount of funding for sport in every primary school, with secondary schools encouraged to offer more sport as part of longer school days.
Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, who chairs the Commons health committee, said on Twitter: “Delighted to see action on sugary drinks in #Budget2016 in a way which encourages reformulation & boosts Childrens sport funding. Drinks like Coke & Pepsi contain 10.6g sugar/100ml so now a clear incentive to reduce below 8g.”
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “This bold and welcome action will send a powerful signal and incentivise soft drinks companies to act on the health consequences of their products.
“Obesity now affects one in five children, causes one in five cancer deaths, and already costs the NHS £5bn a year — so obesity is the new smoking.”