Junk food advertisements are to be banned on the entire London transport system in an effort to combat childhood obesity, the city's mayor Sadiq Khan has announced.
The citywide ban is slated to kick in from February 2019, and will see the advertisements for fatty foods like cheeseburgers and chocolate, as well as fizzy drinks, banished from the Transport for London (TfL) network. According to reports, the ban will effect the advertising efforts of fast-food giants such as McDonald's, who will only be able to display healthier products in adverts.
Khan has been widely quoted across British media as saying that after launching a public consultation about the initiative in May 2018, there is "overwhelming support" for such a ban. "Child obesity is putting the lives of young Londoners at risk and placing huge pressure on our already strained health service," Mr Khan is quoted as saying.
Rather than pointing to parents as the bearers of responsibility for their children's welfare, as some have suggested he should do, Mr Khan has instead insisted that, "advertising plays a huge part in the choices we make" adding that it is "absolutely imperative" that Londoners "take action against this ticking time bomb now and reduce exposure to junk food advertising."
@BBCBreakfast #junkfood #tfl maybe if healthy foods were more reasonably priced then child obesity wouldn't be so much of an issue — a multi pack of crisps/chocolate is cheaper than buying fruit & veg, education is needed to help everyone instead of a quick fix like fast food— Pixie (@pixiewannabe1) November 23, 2018
According to research, has one of the highest ratios of overweight children in Europe, with approximately 40% of children aged 10-11 categorised as ‘overweight' or even ‘clinically obese.'
Yet, Sadiq Khan's crusade against fast-food does not end at the banning of advertisements on the London underground. In fact, he has also floated the idea of prohibiting food takeaway restaurants — such as burger and kebab houses — from opening their doors within a 400 meter proximity of schools.
So according to Sadiq Khan, London will be a much safer place when all the #junkfood adverts are banned from being advertised on Buses, The Tube, Hoardings etc,and being replaced with healthy food adverts. How about focusing more on#terrorism and less on #Obeseism— Ethelred, im not quite ready yet. (@seavixenman) November 23, 2018
— LeanneF (@leannibrum) November 23, 2018
However, it's not only junk food over which Mr Khan's censorious eye has been cast. Back in 2016 he won the praise of so-called ‘gender equality groups' by proclaiming a total ban on what he described as "body-shaming" ads on the London underground. He was referring to advertisements which depict woman in bikinis or revealing clothing, which some feminist groups have argued risk promoting an "ideal" body image. Announcing that move at the tine, TfL Commercial Development Director, Graeme Craig, announced that, "our customers cannot simply switch off or turn a page if an advertisement offends or upsets them and we have a duty to ensure the copy we carry reflects that unique environment."
Over and above, it should not come as much of a surprise that not everyone agrees with Mr Khan's zeal for banning advertisements, which some have pointed to as a form of politically correct censorship.
Justin Cochrane, the chairman of trade body ‘Outsmart' which deals with outdoor advertising companies, has been quoted by the Guardian as saying that food ads earn the TfL tens of millions of pounds every year, and that not all of this money can be replaced if the ads are banned. Mr Cochrane is also quoted as questioning the motives of Mr Khan's brash new advance on junk food advertisements, saying that, "the way he's [Khan] doing it feels completely wrong. It feels like a political thing."
"There's no evidence to say that banning advertising particularly helps with childhood obesity. We already have loads of voluntary codes," Mr Cochrane reportedly added.