A ban on junk food advertising will be imposed across the entire transport network of London early next year, despite strong objections from the advertising industry.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced at the end of last week that all ads for food and non-alcoholic drinks high in fat, salt and/or sugar – and considered “less healthy” under Public Health England guidelines – will be banned from 25 February 2019.

In addition to the Underground, train and bus networks run by Transport for London (TfL), the restrictions will apply across the organisation’s advertising estate.

These will include roads controlled by TfL, such as ads on roundabouts and at bus stops, river services, trams, Victoria coach station, the Emirates Air Line cable car across the River Thames, as well as taxis, private hire vehicles and dial-a-rides.

Under the tough new restrictions, which follow a public consultation that the Mayor’s Office claims found “overwhelming support” from Londoners for a ban, products like cheeseburgers and chocolate will be banned.

FMCG brands and fast food chains will still be allowed to advertise healthier products, such as unsalted nuts, raisins and sugar-free drinks, but they will not be able to promote their brand using a generic logo.

The Mayor’s Office stated that London has one of the highest child overweight and obesity rates in Europe, with almost 40% of the capital’s children aged 10 and 11 overweight or obese, which Sadiq Khan believes is a “ticking time bomb” and a “scandal”.

“It’s clear that advertising plays a huge part in the choices we make, whether we realise it or not, and Londoners have shown overwhelming support for a ban on adverts for junk food and drink on our transport network,” he said.

“It’s completely unacceptable that in a city as prosperous as London, where you live and the amount you earn can have a massive impact on whether you have access to healthy, nutritious food. I’m determined to change this.”

However, UK advertising industry bodies hit back, questioning both the effectiveness of the new policy and highlighting the risk to TfL’s revenue streams.

“An advertising ban is not going to meet the Mayor’s main objective of preventing childhood obesity because there is no evidence that advertising is the cause of the problem,” said Richard Lindsay, director of legal and public affairs at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).

“It will prevent the advertising of some products which, although classified as HFSS [high fat salt sugar], may actually form part of a balanced diet, and it will include ads for products of interest to adults rather than children.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, said there is “no clear evidence” that a ban on HFSS advertising on the TfL out-of-home estate would have a positive effect on reducing childhood obesity rates in London.

“Not only will this measure fail to achieve the end goal of reducing childhood obesity, it will also damage businesses in our capital and reduce TfL’s income from advertising, with the potential of putting increased pressure on commuters through higher fares,” he added, in comments reported by Mediatel.

Sourced from Mayor of London, Mediatel; additional content by WARC staff