Junk food TV advertising ban is one step towards tackling scourge of obesity – Scotsman comment

Human beings crave sugar and fat for a good reason: we evolved to do so because it was, for most of our history, a matter of life and death.

TV adverts for food like soft drinks, burgers and chips are to be banned before 9pm (Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
TV adverts for food like soft drinks, burgers and chips are to be banned before 9pm (Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

It is only recently in evolutionary teams that our big brains have designed systems of production so good that we can now supply vast amounts of cheap food which have banished famine from the developed world.

But our cravings have turned these systems against us with demand for junk food producing an ever-greater supply to the point where some supermarkets can be little more than massive sweet shops.

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The result has been an obesity crisis. Rates of obesity have tripled worldwide since 1975, and Scotland ranks among the worst affected.

According to the Scottish Health Survey, 66 per cent of adults in 2019 were overweight, including 29 per cent who were obese, compared to 60 per cent in the UK.

Yesterday, the UK Government announced a ban on TV adverts for food high in sugar, salt and fat, such as soft drinks, sweets, ice cream, biscuits, burgers, crisps, chips and pizzas, before 9pm as part of its efforts to combat what is a growing threat in more ways than one.

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Boris Johnson said: “I'm afraid we do have a national struggle with obesity, and we need to deal with it. The costs on the NHS are vast.”

Banning advertising is an infringement on the right to free speech and is not something any democratic government would want to do. This is particularly true for a Conservative one, given such an action represents ‘nanny state’ interference in the free market. The fact that this step has been taken shows just how serious the situation has become.

More will need to be done to achieve the societal changes required to bring about a healthier national diet, starting with a great emphasis on food and health at school, and smarter food company executives will spot the way the wind is blowing.

However, we should also not be swept away by ideological fervour and shun all cheesecake for salt-free water biscuits.

It’s not the occasional treat that’s killing us, but the treats that have turned into our staple diet. As a species, we now need to use our big brains to find ways to eat heathily, but also well.

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