A global coalition of pressure groups has started a crusade against soft drinks companies in a bid to tackle childhood obesity.

The campaign, Dump Soda, is calling on governments across the world to ban companies from marketing high sugar drinks to children under 16 through channels such as internet advertising, event sponsorship and packaging promotions. It also wants companies to pay a tax on soft drinks to support government-funded PE programmes and subsidised fruit and veg.

"Giants like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are flooding the world with beverages that are nothing more than liquid candy," said Bruce Silverglade, legal director of the US Centre for Science in the Public Interest, which is spearheading the campaign.

"As a result, consumers including children in all corners of the globe are increasingly developing obesity, type two diabetes, and other health problems."

But the British Soft Drinks Association said the campaign did not take into account the progress already made by suppliers.

Advertising to children was already governed by extensive regulations and many soft drinks companies had adopted rules that went even further than required, it added.