Food with a price promotion in Scotland

AN overwhelming majority of parents in Scotland have blamed price deals that offer extra items for free for tempting people to buy unhealthy food at the supermarket, a new Cancer Research UK poll has found.

“The introduction without delay of world-leading laws to prevent price promotions from continuing to fuel Scotland’s obesity epidemic would be an important step towards turning the tide on a crisis that’s damaging the health of so many people across Scotland.” – Professor Linda Bauld

Offers such as Buy One Get One Free are influential in getting people to buy junk food, according to 90% of parents surveyed*.

At a time when more than a fifth of four and five-year-old children in Scotland are overweight or obese**, Cancer Research UK has called for immediate action from the Scottish Government.

The move has also won the backing of the Scots parents surveyed. Around 6 in 10 parents (61%) said that they backed plans by the Scottish Government to restrict price promotions on foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt.

Drawing on extensive research into obesity, Cancer Research UK insists legislation to restrict junk food price promotions would be effective. The charity is urging the Scottish Government to announce in this week’s Programme for Government that it will introduce legislation this year.

The charity’s cancer prevention expert Professor Linda Bauld, who is based at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Sadly Scotland’s weight problem is becoming ever obvious and it’s clear from this survey that the public recognise the damaging impact of price promotions.

“The Scottish Government has a role to play to help us all eat a better diet. The introduction without delay of world-leading laws to prevent price promotions from continuing to fuel Scotland’s obesity epidemic would be an important step towards turning the tide on a crisis that’s damaging the health of so many people across Scotland.

“At a time when more than a fifth of very young children in Scotland are carrying too much weight and almost three in ten adults across the country are obese***, the case for swift action couldn’t be more compelling.

“The health consequences of Scotland’s obesity epidemic are profound. An obese child is five times more likely to be an obese adult**** and carrying too much weight is linked with 13 different types of cancer*****.”

The YouGov survey also revealed that more than three quarters of Scots parents (77%) agreed that the price of unhealthy food was contributing towards people being overweight and obese.

As well as BOGOFs, an overwhelming majority of parents (88%) surveyed also said that price deals that reduced the cost of junk food – for example 50% off – influenced what people bought.

Excess weight is Scotland’s biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking. Around 2,200 (7%) cases of cancer a year in Scotland – around six a day – are down to being overweight or obese. ******

Professor Steve Turner, Scottish Officer of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Aberdeen, is backing Cancer Research UK’s campaign. He said: “Childhood obesity causes health problems for children. Obesity often continues from childhood into adulthood and adult obesity is a major preventable risk factor for cancer and is associated with a wide range of illnesses and premature death.

“With far too many of our children carrying too much weight today, there’s no time to waste as we try to prevent ill health in today’s children and tomorrow’s adults. In the next 12 months, the Scottish Government must do more to support families by introducing legislation to restrict the harmful price promotions that persuade shoppers to stock up on high calorie junk food.

“In Scotland, too much sugary food and drink is purchased on price promotion. The tide must be turned on this. The future health of Scotland’s children depends on it.”


*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,037 adults in Scotland. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th – 13th August 2019. 201 of those surveyed were parents. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

** ISD Scotland report which shows that more than a fifth (22.4%) of Primary One children in Scotland were found to be at risk of being overweight or obese in the school year 2017/18To view them, visit:

*** Scottish Government (2018) Scottish Health Survey 2017. 26% of adults (16+) have a BMI of 30-40, 3% have a BMI over 40. Visit:

**** Simmonds, M. Llewellyn, A. Owen, CG. Woolacott, N. (2016) “Predicting adult obesity from childhood obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis” Obes Rev. 2016 Feb;17(2):95-107. doi: 10.1111/obr.12334. Epub 2015 Dec 23.

***** Lauby-Secretan B, Scoccianti C, Loomis D, Grosse Y, Bianchini F, Straif K, International Agency for Research on Cancer Handbook Working Group. (2016) Body Fatness and Cancer-Viewpoint of the IARC Working Group. N Engl J Med.; 375(8): 794-798

****** Brown et al. The fraction of cancer attributable to known risk factors in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the UK overall in 2015. British Journal of Cancer