Formerly Libertarian Boris Turns Nanny-in-Chief, Bans Daytime ‘Junk Food’ Ads, Shopping Deals

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 24: Prime minister Boris Johnson wears a face mask as he visits Tol
Jeremy Selwyn - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The formerly libertarian prime minister has imposed a raft of new restrictions in the promotion of food deemed unhealthy, treating advertisements for ‘junk food’ like nudity or violence by banning them on television before 9 p.m.

Reports last week suggested that Prime Minister Boris Johnson would ban promotional sales of junk food, including Buy One Get One Frees (BOGOFs). However, he has gone farther by also banning advertisements of food high in fat, sugar, and salt on television and the Internet before 9 p.m. to limit their exposure to children.

Announced on Monday, the Conservative government revealed that “new laws will ban the advertising of food high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) on television and online before 9 p.m. when children are most likely to see them.

“Ahead of this, the government will also hold a new short consultation on whether the ban on online adverts for HFSS, should apply at all times of day.”

Restaurants, cafes, and takeaways with more than 250 employees must also include calorie counts on the food they sell and serve, “while alcoholic drinks could soon have to list hidden ‘liquid calories'”.

“It is hoped alcohol labelling could lead to a reduction in consumption, improving people’s health and reducing their waistline,” the government said.

The move came after Mr Johnson experienced his own Damascene conversion on the Nanny State, after the overweight prime minister found himself in intensive care with a severe case of coronavirus earlier this year. Government statistics show that eight per cent of critically ill patients in intensive care suffering from the Chinese virus were morbidly obese, compared to 2.9 per cent of the general population.

Prime Minister Johnson wrote in the Daily Express on Monday: “We all put things off — I know I have. I’ve wanted to lose weight for ages, and like many people, I struggle with my weight.

“I go up and down, but during the whole coronavirus epidemic and when I got it too, I realised how important it is not to be overweight.

“The facts are simple: extra weight puts extra pressure on our organs and makes it harder to treat heart disease, cancer and — as we have found — coronavirus.

“This was true in my case, and it’s true in many thousands of others.

“It was a wake-up call for me, and I want it to be a wake-up call for the whole country.”

However, not everyone is convinced that further restrictions on food advertising will result in a decrease in weight for many Britons. Sue Eustace, the director of public affairs at the Advertising Association, called the plans “extreme” and “unnecessary”.

“We have some of the strictest [advertising] rules in the world already, and children’s exposure to high fat, salt, and sugar adverts on TV has fallen by 70 per cent over the last 15 years or so, but there’s been no change to obesity, so we don’t think these measures are going to work,” Ms Eustace said, according to the BBC.

The Nanny State Index placed the UK in fourth place in 2019, in the top seven “least free” countries in the European Union in terms of smoking, eating, and drinking.

Just one year ago, then-Tory leadership candidate Johnson had pledged a review of “sin stealth taxes” and promised to end the “continuing creep of the nanny state”.

“It’s time to take a proper look at the continuing creep of the nanny state and the impact it has on hardworking families across Britain.

“The recent proposal for a tax on milkshakes seems to me to clobber those who can least afford it.

“If we want people to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles, we should encourage people to walk, cycle and generally do more exercise. Rather than just taxing people more, we should look at how effective the so-called ‘sin taxes’ really are, and if they actually change behaviour,” Mr Johnson had said.

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