London Mayor bans junk food ads
Despite strong opposition from the ad industry's lobbying body, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has confirmed he is to press ahead with a ban on junk food advertising on the capital's transport network.
The decision follows a public consultation launched in May which found "overwhelming support" from Londoners for a ban, covering all adverts for food and non-alcoholic drinks high in fat, salt and sugar and considered “less healthy” under Public Health England guidelines.
Examples of products that would not be accepted are sugary drinks, cheeseburgers, chocolate bars and salted nuts, while unsalted nuts, raisins and sugar free drinks would be accepted.
“It’s clear that advertising plays a huge part in the choices we make, whether we realise it or not, and Londoners have shown overwhelming support for a ban on adverts for junk food and drink on our transport network,” said Khan on Friday.
From 25 February, the restrictions will apply to advertisements on all modes of transport controlled by TfL, including the Underground, Overground, London buses, TfL Rail, trams and river services.
It has been estimated that a junk food advertising ban could cost TfL up to £13.3m per year in lost revenue, while of the out-of-home businesses operating in the capital, the ban would hit Exterion Media and JCDecaux hardest.
Commenting on the ban, Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, said there is no clear evidence that a ban on high fat, salt and sugar advertising on the TfL out-of-home estate will have a positive effect on reducing childhood obesity rates in London.
"We all want to see rates of childhood obesity dropping but believe there are far better ways to achieve this goal," he said.
“Not only will this measure fail to achieve the end goal of reducing childhood obesity, it will also damage businesses in our capital and reduce TfL’s income from advertising, with the potential of putting increased pressure on commuters through higher fares."
Woodford added that there has been "little interest" to date from the Mayor’s office in working with the ad industry to tackle the issue.
Writing for City A.M., Justin Cochrane, chair of Outsmart, the body representing the UK's OOH industry, said the mayor’s solution is "simple but crude" and "the wrong answer to this pressing problem."
"It will do nothing to help reduce childhood obesity – everyone, including the mayor’s own officials, accepts that advertising on the tube and buses is not primarily targeted at kids," he said. "What it will do is add up to £125m to TfL’s debts over the next five years."