Ban eating on public transport, proposes leading health official

Woman eating hamburger on bus
Snacking ban: Dame Sally Davies has proposed a ban on eating or drinking on buses and trains. [Photo: Getty]

Eating on public transport should be banned, the outgoing Chief Medical Officer for England has recommended.

Professor Dame Sally Davies has warned the government is currently “nowhere near” its target to reduce childhood obesity.

“The Government ambition is to halve childhood obesity by 2030 - in England, we are nowhere near achieving this,” she writes in her report. “Yet, if we are bold, we can achieve this goal,” she writes in her report.

“I want to see our children's health, not companies' profits, put at the forefront of government policy,” she adds. “Excess weight has slowly crept up on us all and is now often accepted as normal.”

Davies stresses that 1.2 million children in the UK are now clinically obese, with young people suffering Type 2 diabetes, asthma and musculoskeletal pain, as well as mental health problems such as depression.

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She has suggested a number of measures to reduce obesity, including a ban on eating and drinking on public transport.

The proposal has provoked a backlash on social media, with some people arguing it’s “the only time to get in a meal” for some. Others accused Davies of being out of touch with the general public.

Those suffering from diabetes have also argued they might need to eat on public transport for medical reasons.

Davies’ other recommendations include extending the existing sugar tax to milk-based drinks containing added sugar, which might include the likes of hot chocolate and milkshakes.

The UK sugar tax first came into effect on 6 April 2018. It imposes a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages based on total sugar content.

Davies additionally suggests that all major publicly-funded sporting venues and major sporting events should only advertise and sell low-calorie, low-fat and low-salt and/or sugar products.

Free drinking water should also be available in all takeaways, food shops and restaurants, she proposes.

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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. [Photo: Getty]

Davies’ full list of recommendations:

  1. Prohibit eating and drinking on public transport in a bid to curb children snacking.

  2. Extend the sugar tax to sweetened milk-based drinks with added sugar.

  3. Ensure all publicly-funded sporting venues and major sporting events only advertise and sell low- calorie, low-fat and low-salt and/or sugar products.

  4. 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.

  5. Impose a cap on the number of calories per serving at food outlets.

  6. Make free drinking water available in takeaways, food shops and restaurants.

  7. 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.

  8. Curb car speed limits near schools and homes to help improve air quality and encourage children to walk or cycle.

  9. Strengthen regulation of marketing of follow-on formula milk and improve promotion of breastfeeding, which is known to help reduce the risk of obesity.

  10. Introduce mandatory standards for the nutritional content of foods for children under the age of two.

Professor Chris Whitty will take over Davies’ role as Chief Medical Officer for England in 2019, as she takes up a new role as master of Trinity College Cambridge.