London Mayor to ban junk food ads on public transport

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan has unveiled plans to ban junk food advertising on tubes and buses to tackle the 'ticking timebomb' of child obesity.

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The Mayor of London plans to ban the advertising of unhealthy food on London transport

Mr Khan said it was a ‘scandal’ a city as prosperous as London can have one of the highest rates of overweight and obese children in Europe.

According to the latest figures from the NHS Child Measurement Programme, 40 per cent of children aged 10 and 11 in the capital are overweight and obese. One in five children are leaving primary school obese, according to Public Health England.

Under the proposal, included in the Mayor’s draft London Food strategy, out for consultation from today, advertisements for food and drink high in fat, salt or sugar would banned across the entire Transport for London (TFL) network, including the London underground, overground and the capital’s buses and bus shelters.

Research by the National Centre for Social Research and Cancer Research UK has shown that advertising of unhealthy foods, particularly when aimed at children, puts extra pressure on children and families when it comes to choosing what to eat and drink.

Other proposals within the strategy include funding the development of plans by London boroughs to make better food more widely available across London.

The Mayor hopes that the proposals will help Londoners make healthy food choices and reduce the ‘unacceptable’ level of child obesity in London by 2028.

In December, Mr Khan outlined plans to stop new hot food takeaways opening within 400 metres of schools. He recently appointed a chair and vice chair of London’s first Child Obesity Taskforce, which will meet for the first time later this year.

The Mayor of London said, ‘Child obesity in London is a ticking timebomb and I am determined to act. If we don’t take bold steps against it we are not doing right by our young people as well as placing a huge strain on our already pressurised health service in years to come.

‘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. 

‘I’m determined to do all I can to tackle this issue with the powers I have and help Londoners make healthy food choices for themselves and their families. That is why I’m proposing to ban adverts for harmful junk food from our entire tube and bus network. I want to reduce the influence and pressure that can be put on children and families to make unhealthy choices.

‘The Government needs to step up and join this fight against child obesity, so we can achieve real progress – not just in London, but across the entire country.’

Commenting on the Mayor of London’s proposal, Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said, ‘Obesity is having a huge impact on communities up and down the country, particularly those living in deprived areas, and one of the leading contributors for its growth is advertising.

'We know junk food advertising influences children’s food choices and children from deprived communities are more likely to be exposed to junk food marketing. It is therefore vital, especially in cities like London where deprivation is high, that it is tackled. This bold move from the Mayor of London is congratulated by the RCPCH. It gives a clear example of how others can utilise their powers to protect child health in their own communities and we urge others to follow-suit.

‘We know healthy children are much more likely to develop into healthy adults and with the bill for obesity weighing in at just over £5 billion, it is clear that action is needed if we are to reverse this trend.

‘Government has a real opportunity to be world leaders in obesity prevention with the up-coming publication of its child obesity strategy. We need them to show they are serious about protecting child health by banning junk food advertising on television before the 9pm watershed but going one step further, by exploring how we can protect children from these adverts online and on social media too.’

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