Ban food and drink on all public transport, says UK Chief Medical Officer

Consuming food or drink on public transport should be banned if Britain hopes to address the country’s obesity crisis, according to Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies.

The proposed ban is believed to affect the consumption of food and drinks on all public transport including buses, trains and trams.

The main aim of the ban is to help combat the UK’s child obesity epidemic by restricting areas where snacking can take place, as well as limiting the sale of unhealthy foods. The ‘snacking ban’ is just one of many proposals laid out in Dame Sally’s final report.

“Children are drowning in a flood of unhealthy food and drink options,” Dame Sally said. “It is about changing the culture so snacking is no longer normalised. We need to make the bus, the train and the tube a safe place for children.

“It is a mindless way to eat and seeing other people eating does prompt you to think about eating.”

Free water refill stations on public transport are also amongst the recommendations.

NHS Scotland released figures last year showing that nearly a quarter of children starting primary school were overweight. Official body mass index figures show only 22.4% of primary one children were above the healthy weight range.

Screenshot 2019-10-10 at 10.09.54

Source: Time to Solve Childhood Obesity. An Independent Report by the Chief Medical Officer, 2019

Dr Lauren Wyness a freelance registered nutritionist said that the snacking ban was an ‘interesting’ concept but not one she particularly agrees with. Dr Wyness says that the ban would be impossible to police but worries it would increase people’s ‘food anxiety’.

“It may lead to an unhealthy relationship around food, people may get anxious about snacking because the ban almost implies that snacking is bad but snacking can obviously be quite healthy”

Dame Sally also suggests that VAT should be greatly increased on the ‘unhealthiest’ foods in an effort to subsidise fruit and veg. Standardised packaging of snack foods has also been proposed – following the success of a similar scheme with tobacco products – unless their sugar content is dramatically reduced within two years.

“It’s probably a good idea, but I don’t know how it would actually work.” says one Edinburgh local.  She continued, “What would be more realistic is if they stop serving chocolate on trains, rather than actually stopping people bringing on chocolate. They can’t search someone’s bag before they get on the train”.

Dame Sally has called on politicians across the political spectrum to “come together and take action”.

“The health of our children is in your hands,” she said. “You can take action because you, on behalf of our society shape our environment.”

 

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