Fast food advertising could be banned on buses and trains in the Brighton and Hove area if councilors prevail.
They voted to urge Brighton and Hove Buses and train operator Southern to scrap advertising for fast food and energy drinks across the local transport network.
And they called for an audit of fast-food or energy drink advertisements at bus stops, on community-owned billboards and in all community buildings.
They also want to push the government to “remove junk food ads,” similar to the ban on tobacco ads.
The vote followed a debate at the Brighton and Hove City Council meeting at Hove Town Hall last Thursday (7 April).
Councilors were told 14,000 children and more adults in Brighton and Hove were overweight. When the local children entered secondary school, 15 percent were severely overweight and had tooth decay.
Labor Councilor Amanda Evans proposed a motion at the full council meeting, saying: “Advertising aimed at children and families is very clever and insidious.
“All happy music and primary colors, it’s designed to showcase the worst kinds of nutrient-poor, chemical, high-fat, and high-sugar foods as tasty, fun, and essential to well-being.”
“It’s designed to get kids harassing their parents into letting them do it.”
Councilor Evans said she likes a piece of cake and a glass of wine as much as the next person, but it’s a “slippery slope” to fast food and energy drinks that is bad for people’s health.
She said bans worked, citing Transport for London, which banned junk food advertising in 2018, and a peer-reviewed study published this year by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
She said consumption of foods high in fat, salt and sugar dropped by 1,000 calories per week per person. And confectionery sales fell by 20 percent.
Conservative Councilor Garry Peltzer Dunn broadly agreed with Councilor Evans but said he could not support a proposed audit of food and drink sold on council premises.
Councilor Peltzer Dunn said there was little the council could do as it owned the land of 170 local businesses and could not prohibit the sale without amending their leases.
He said: “I don’t see the point of such a request. I understand, from the bottom of my heart, why the request was made. Off my head I’m saying we can’t use the information.
“I think it’s an empty vehicle. It would cost money. We’ve all heard that money is really tight – and it is. Should we be wasting money on what would be a pointless exercise?”
Green councilor Martin Osborne agreed that auditing every branch in city-owned buildings would be too difficult and expensive. But supported an audit of the ad, describing it as a “productive use of official time.”
Councilor Osborne said: “Advertising for fast food and energy drinks is a problem. These are things that too often are aggressively promoted to young people from all angles, be it online, on social media, on TV or in physical advertisements around the city.”
He said Greens’ policy was to ban all advertising aimed at children, but added that it was a “debate for another time”.
Independent councilor Tony Janio was the only vote against the proposals, describing the proposal as a form of scrutiny.
Councilor Janio said: “If you ban me from promoting smoking, we agree that’s a bad thing. Who decides what (food and drink) is bad and good for me?
“Councillor Osborne has expanded it to look to the future to ban other things. We could even ban meat advertising. Let’s have Meat Free Mondays again.
“Why don’t we ban cars in advertising on Old Shoreham Road? He just opened it to control our lives.”
Labor Councilor Clare Moonan said it might not be possible to audit sales at Marks and Spencer’s council-owned premises in Western Road, Brighton, but it was possible at the Brighton Centre.
Councilors voted to forward the request for a review of the fast food and energy advertisements before a future meeting of the council’s Social Welfare and Public Health Subcommittee.