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London Mayor confirms junk food ad ban on transport network

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by Cancer Research UK | News

23 November 2018

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Junk food advertising will be banned on public transport in London from February 2019, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan confirmed today. 

The ban will cover all adverts for food and non-alcoholic drinks high in fat, salt and/or sugar. It will cover the entire Transport for London (TfL) 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 London. 

“It’s clear that advertising plays a huge part in the choices we make, whether we realise it or not, and Londoners have shown overwhelming support for a ban on adverts for junk food and drink on our transport network,” said Khan. 

The decision follows a public consultation launched in May, which found overwhelming support from Londoners for the restrictions. 8 in 10 of the 1,500 responses on the Mayor’s online Talk London platform supported the plans.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said the ban was a “bold step” towards tackling childhood obesity.   

Putting plans into action

London has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in Europe, with almost 4 in 10 children aged between 10 and 11 classed as either overweight or obese. 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. 

The ban is part of a wider drive to reduce childhood obesity in the capital, with the ambition to halve the percentage of London’s children who are overweight at the start of primary school and obese at the end of primary school by 2030. 

To help reach that ambition, Khan has set up London’s first-ever Child Obesity Taskforce. The taskforce will publish its full action plan in the New Year, but an outline proposes to ban the opening of new hot food takeaways within 400 metres of primary and secondary schools. 

Obesity in adulthood can increase the risk of 13 different types of cancer. And obese children are 5 times more likely to be obese as adults.

Bauld called on the UK Government to take inspiration from London and act on its recently updated childhood obesity plan. 

Restrictions on junk food marketing and promotions outlined in the plan “will help families make the healthier choice, the easier choice,” she added.