Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has revealed plans to impose a ban on junk food advertising on public transport, in a bid to tackle childhood obesity.
Khan is consulting on the plans that would see adverts for unhealthy food and drink that are high in fat, salt or sugar banned across the entire Transport for London network, including London Underground, Overground and the capital’s buses and bus shelters.
The Mayor said the measures are designed to tackle the “ticking timebomb” of childhood obesity in the capital.
Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, Alison Cox, said it would be “a really great step for London”, where junk food advertising dominates in several boroughs.
Helping London make healthier choices
London has one of the highest child obesity rates in Europe, with almost 4 in 10 children aged between 10 and 11 classed as either obese or overweight. Children from poorer boroughs are most at risk, with young people in Barking and Dagenham almost twice as likely to be overweight as children from Richmond.
Obesity is the biggest cause of cancer in the UK after smoking, with over 1 in 20 cancer cases linked to being overweight or obese. And obese children are more likely to be obese as adults.
“Our research shows that young people are more than twice as likely to be obese if they can remember seeing a junk food advert every day compared to those who couldn’t recall any over a month,” said Cox.
“It can’t be right that in a city as prosperous as London that where you live and the income you have can have a massive impact on whether you have access to healthy, nutritious food and your exposure to junk food advertising,” said Khan.
With the proposed ban he hopes to “reduce the influence and pressure that can be put on children and families to make unhealthy choices.”
Chef and campaigner, Jamie Oliver, called the plans a “bold step” for child health in London.
Beyond bus stops
Khan’s proposal is part of his wider London Food Strategy, which aims to help Londoners make healthier food choices over the next 10 years.
In welcoming the proposal, Cox said Cancer Research UK wants to see a national “ban on junk food TV adverts before 9pm in the upcoming obesity strategy so that more young people can be protected from the marketing tactics used by the food industry.”
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: “The evidence is clear that although it is not a silver bullet, restricting the amount of junk food adverts children are exposed to will help reduce obesity.
“Children are inundated with adverts for unhealthy food so this is a really encouraging move and a bold step in the right direction.”