Advertisement

As obesity rates skyrocket, will the government ban food on public transport?

  • Video report by ITV News Health Correspondent Emily Morgan

In little under 30 years, obesity rates in children have sky rocketed. Five per cent of ten and 11-year-olds were obese in 1990, that has increased to 16 per cent today.

The government does have a target to halve the rates by 2030 but the former chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies says we are nowhere near reaching that unless drastic action is taken.

Dame Sally has written an extensive report on how to tackle obesity in children and made numerous recommendations, one of which is the ban of food and drinks on local public transport. That, of course, is getting the headlines. How can you possibly ban food on buses and trains when we all lead such busy lives and sometimes don't have an option but to eat in public?

Five per cent of ten and 11-year-olds were obese in 1990, that has increased to 16 per cent today. Credit: PA

Indeed, if you are diabetic and need to eat some sugar then surely that is a medical necessity?

I put this to Dame Sally and who was strident in her defence, we need to change the culture of eating she said.

Twenty years ago we didn't eat so much on public transport so we need to make it unacceptable to snack continually throughout the day. On the diabetic question, she said of course diabetics would be allowed to eat when they need to.

There might well be criticism of creating a "nanny state" and penalising innocent people who are just hungry but she has a serious point here. For girls, we have one of the highest rates of obesity in the world. Shouldn't we be thinking boldly about how to help them?

One of the proposals is to ban junk food on public transport. Credit: PA

Dame Sally also calls for a ban on all advertising of junk food, wants to considering putting VAT on unhealthy food and change the planning rules so that it's harder to open a fast food takeaway shop.

The government has published two parts of its obesity strategy but none of the commitments go as far as Dame Sally is suggesting.

In fact, the prime minister appeared to question earlier this year whether so-called "sin taxes" are effective.

The prime minister appeared to question earlier this year whether so-called Credit: PA

In that case, the idea that he might consider putting VAT on unhealthy food is pie in the sky. Dame Sally is adamant the evidence that soft drinks levy works is there so is standing by her recommendation.

There is a lot to digest in the report. The government has welcomed it and said it will consider all options carefully. Dame Sally isn't alone in saying this sad and avoidable problem won't be solved unless these recommendations are implemented. Her report has been widely praised and welcomed across the medical and social spectrum. Whether that will ensure government action or not is not the burning questions.