Thursday, 17 October, 2019

Only the privileged can afford not to eat on public transport

Healthy breakfast. Banana almond smoothie with cinnamon and oat flakes and coconut milk in glass jars Davies has also proposed a tax on sugar milk-based beverages. More
Gustavo Carr | 11 October, 2019, 17:58

In her final report on child obesity, published today, the outgoing CMO, Professor Dame Sally Davies, says that more must be done to prioritise children's health and calls on politicians to do their 'duty, be bold and take further actions to protect and improve children's health'.

Eating on the UK's trains and buses should be banned to help tackle child obesity, the country's leading doctor has said.

She also urged for a review of Value-Added Tax rates on food post-Brexit, ensuring all healthy food has no Value-Added Tax applied, and to ban eating and drinking on public transport to reduce children's snacking.

Nick Reece, a City of Melbourne councillor, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age he would be in favour of a ban on eating food on buses and trains, and there were already rules in place about it "for good reason". She also called for tighter regulations to be placed on the marketing of unhealthy foods and takeaways.

But the proposal that caught the most attention was to "prohibit eating and drinking on urban public transport, except fresh water, breastfeeding and for medical conditions". Education rather than such restrictive measures is surely a better way to address childhood obesity.

"Children have a right to grow up in a healthy environment, but bold and courageous decisions need to be taken to help create this and meet the target of halving childhood obesity by 2030".

She also pointed to a rise in snacking and a culture in which "excess weight is now often accepted as normal".

She said more exercise would not solve the problem - so governments needed to intervene by restricting the available of junk foods and making them more expensive.

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Professor Davies said many children who are overweight suffer from health issues including type 2 diabetes and depression, which affects their quality of life, education and life chances. Others accused Davies of being out of touch with the general public. It imposes a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages based on total sugar content. Her parting report is no different and we will study it closely and act on the evidence'.

Davies thinks that tax is an important lever ministers could use and pointed to the success of the sugar tax, which has reduced sugar consumption by more than one-fifth and taken 30,000 tonnes of sugar per year out of the nation's diet.

There is a mandatory "sugar tax" on soft drinks, which is proving much more effective than the voluntary agreement.

- Tax food firms that fail to reduce sugar, fat and salt in their products quickly enough, and consider plain packaging (as for tobacco) for junk food.

- Phase out all marketing, advertising and sponsorship of less healthy food and drink products across all media, including online, at any major public venue or public-funded event, and on any public-sector-owned advertising site.

Increasing portion sizes and the ready availability of junk food means children now, on average, consume three unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks a day, containing seven teaspoons of sugar.

- Curb speed limits near schools and homes and encourage more children to walk, scoot or cycle.