MEDICINE NEWS LINE: On the November 23rd, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that as of February, all advertisements for food high in fat, sugar and salt will be banned from the London’s tube and bus network. The measure is part of the mayor’s plan to decrease child obesity rates.

The Consumer Choice Center’s London-based Managing Director Fred Roeder said that combating childhood obesity is a noble goal, but trampling on consumer choice and the rights of adult consumers isn’t an appropriate solution.

Even though we all agree that obesity is an important issue, marketing restrictions haven’t proved to be effective in stemming it. In 1980, junk food advertising was outlawed in Quebec and contrary to the expected outcomes, childhood obesity rates went up by 140% in the 15 years following the introduction of the ban.

In October, Public Health England indicated that more than 37 percent of 10 and 11 year-olds in London are overweight or obese. It is often mistakenly argued that this is caused by high energy intake, but the obesity rates are dependent on the physical activity, which according to the Public Health England has decreased by 24 per cent since the 1960s. Daily calorie intake in the UK is also decreasing each decade. We don’t have a junk food problem, but a calorie burning problem. Rather than impose the junk food ban, the mayor should advocate promoting healthy lifestyles that include physical exercise.

To back up the plan, the mayor explained that ‘advertising plays a huge part in the choices we make.’ While it is true that advertisements help distinguish products on the market, governments should preserve consumers’ rights to decide for themselves and avoid legislation that seeks to ban brands. Ultimately, we as a society need to focus on educating and empowering parents to ensure their children make healthy choices.”

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