Removing junk food ads makes a difference in London
Positive changes to the rules on what can be advertised on Transport for London (TfL) services have resulted in weekly household purchases of unhealthy foods dropping by 1,000 kcal.
Introduction of restrictions
In February 2019, restrictions on the outdoor advertising of unhealthy foods and drinks across the TfL network were implemented. This included the London Underground and TfL rail network, buses and trains run by TfL and outdoor spaces owned by TfL such as bus stops. The policy allows healthier foods and drinks to be advertised.
Results of restrictions
Researchers looked at the average weekly household purchases of unhealthy products by households in London compared to those in Northern England, before and after the policy was introduced.
They found that average weekly purchases showed a reduction of 26g in saturated fat and 80g in sugar. The drop in energy of 1,000 kcal is equivalent to buying about 385 kcals (1610 kJ) per person per week less of unhealthy foods. That could have a real impact on the health of the population.
Modelling research estimates that the reduced energy could lead to 94,867 fewer cases of obesity and save over 200 million pounds over the lifetime of the current population. The researchers also found most benefit for those people from socioeconomically deprived groups.
And its encouraging to hear this policy has created interest across the country with other places, including Bristol – the first council outside London — announcing a policy to restrict the marketing of food and drink products high in fat, sugar and/or salt on council-owned spaces, assets, and events.
What we can do here in Australia
Removing junk food ads from public transport has been shown to be effective in London. Australian states should follow the TfL policy. It’s a small change to what can be advertised but it makes a difference to the health of the community.
We need your help
Please sign our petition to call on the NSW government to remove unhealthy food advertising from State-owned or controlled property, in particular public transport.
Yau A, Berger N, Law C, et al. Changes in household food and drink purchases following restrictions on the advertisement of high fat, salt, and sugar products across the Transport for London network: A controlled interrupted time series analysis. PLOS Medicine. 2022;19(2):e1003915
Thomas C, Breeze P, Cummins S, et al. The health, cost and equity impacts of restrictions on the advertisement of high fat, salt and sugar products across the transport for London network: a health economic modelling study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2022;19(1):93