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What Will be the Effect of TfL’s Proposed Junk Food Ban?

What Will be the Effect of TfL’s Proposed Junk Food Ban?

London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced a new proposal last week to ban ads for food and drink high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) across London’s tube and bus network. This is in an attempt to tackle the increasing number of obesity cases in London, which Khan described as a “ticking timebomb”. He stated that he wanted to reduce the pressure on families and children to make unhealthy food choices. If it comes into fruition, the ban will affect both large fast food chains and smaller scale restaurants/products.

This isn’t the first time ads have been banned on the Transport for London (TfL) network. In 2015, Protein World’s ‘Are You Beach Body Ready?’ poster received 360 official complaints from the public, and was subsequently banned by the ASA. The general consensus was that the ad was harmful as it promoted an unhealthy and unattainable body image. The following year Sadiq Khan proposed a wider ban on all ads that promote an unrealistic body image.

Are these very particular cases, or is this a start of a trend where advertising that raises health and social issues are at threat of being banned? Also, for now this is mainly affecting out-of-home advertising (mainly as TfL OOH advertising falls under the remit of the London Mayor), but will it affect other mediums too? These are issues we as advertisers will have to keep a watchful eye over in the coming months.

Aside from the wider impact on advertising, colleagues at TCS have been sharing their personal thoughts on the proposed ban by TfL.

Managing Director David Price said “The Mayor’s got it wrong on this one. What needs to happen is a concentrated effort from Government targeting all the reasons why obesity is an issue within our society. Until this happens, this is pretty futile.”

Sam Ellis, also against the idea of a ban, said “The bad diet choices people make is not the fault of advertising. Advertising is there to inform you of products which may appeal to you, and potentially tempt you to make a purchase. Ads don’t use mind control or subliminal messaging to coerce you. It ultimately comes down to your own ability to make a decision that is right for you.”

Rayhan Uddin agreed with the ban, stating “Public Health England data finds that the NHS spends more on treating obesity and diabetes than on the police, fire service and judicial system combined. It also finds that obesity has a serious impact on economic development, costing wider society up to £27 billion. Eating junk food is not simply an individual decision, but one that affects all of us. As such, we should all be invested in education and regulation (including banning ads) that helps to improve people’s diets and reduce preventable health issues.”

Callum Jewell also agreed with the ban, but thinks it’s only a first step. He said “Obesity is a huge problem in London, with 40% of the capitals 10 year olds being overweight or obese. Jamie Oliver described London as having “the most overweight and obese children of any major global city”. I think the ban is a good idea and it will go some way to helping obesity-related issues. However, I believe a total ban on HFSS advertising would be far more effective.”

Matt Martin was neither for nor against. He said “Morally, with the general number of obesity-caused cases the NHS is faced with, the country’s HFSS food should have limited exposure, if any at all. However the counter argument is that ‘if you can legally sell it, why can’t you advertise it?’. There are definitely some double standards floating about.”

The wide range of views within our office shows that this is a highly contentious issue. Each time such an advertising ban is proposed, it raises an interesting wider debate about the influence of advertising on individual decision making.

Patricia Hytonen
Junior Media Planer/Buyer

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