Junk food and vaping adverts would be banned from airing before 9pm under Labour plans, despite suggestions the move could be ‘bad for business’
Labour will ban junk food and vaping adverts from airing before 9pm, despite warnings the move will be ‘bad for business’.
Sir Keir Starmer ruled out a further ‘sugar tax’ on unhealthy foods but said limiting firms’ ability to market such products to children was an effective way to take preventative action.
He said a sugar tax during the current cost-of-living squeeze would only ‘add to the burden’ for struggling families at the current moment but action on advertising could be done ‘very simply and very easily’.
A ban on advertising had originally been proposed under Boris Johnson‘s government as part of his crackdown on obesity.
But some Tory MPs blasted the ‘nanny state’ plan to block online junk food adverts as they argued ‘people should assume responsibility for their own health’.
Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party, gives a speech announcing the Labour Party’s plans for reforming the NHS
As a result, plans to limit when foods high in fat, salt and sugar could be advertised on TV and online had been pushed back to October 2025 by ministers.
He said: ‘We will take on the social media companies who push dangerous misogyny on our kids. I am saying very clearly to those who profit from harming our children – no, not in Britain.
‘Today we go further on that. We will change advertising rules and we will make sure that products which are harmful to our children’s health – vaping, junk food, sugary snacks – cannot be advertised to our children. No – not in Britain.
‘The focus that we put forward today is based purely on advertising.’
But Chris Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs said: ‘This policy is already on the statute books but has been delayed due to the state of the economy. There will never be a good time to introduce it.
‘It’s bad for business, bad for consumers and bad for broadcasters. There has never been a satisfactory definition of “junk food”. A ban would prevent a vast range of perfectly normal foods being advertised before 9pm on television and at any time online.’
Over the weekend the Labour leader’s frontbench team said public policy would be used to prevent ill health under a Labour government.
The party’s health spokesman Wes Streeting told The Times that Labour prepared to use ‘the heavy hand of state regulation’ to force food and drink firms into action.
He said the soft drink industry levy was ‘without doubt one of the most effective public policy interventions on public health under the Conservatives – about one of the only ones’.
Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting greets Starmer before giving his speech at the Labour Party conference on reforming the NHS
The levy, also called a sugar tax, adds 18p per litre to the price of soft drinks with between 5g and 8g of sugar per 100ml, and 24p per litre to soft drinks with even higher sugar levels.
Shadow minister Liz Kendall said: ‘We will be looking at shifting events towards prevention.’
New research yesterday for the Obesity Health Alliance found eight out of 10 adults support a ban on advertising unhealthy food to children on TV and online.
The new YouGov survey of more than 2,000 people for the Obesity Health Alliance found 79 per cent support a TV ban of unhealthy food to children while 81 per cent said the same about online.
The poll also found 68 per cent would support food firms being taxed for unhealthy foods if the money was spent on children’s health programmes.
Similarly, 79 per cent think the Government should be doing more to make sure healthy food is affordable during the cost-of-living crisis, while 77 per cent think the cash raised by the current sugar tax on soft drinks should be used directly to fund programmes aimed at improving children’s health.
Professor Phil Banfield of the British Medical Association said: ‘Labour needs to go further in at least three key areas if they are to have a lasting impact on the nation’s health: Tightening regulations of the smoking, alcohol and gambling industries, alongside junk food, restoring funding for public health services and establishing a cross-departmental goal to improve health and tackling health inequalities.’