Rob Lyons

Sadiq Khan goes to war on junk food. What about knife crime?

Sadiq Khan has been busy. But the mayor of London isn’t snowed under trying to deal with the capital’s knife crime epidemic. Instead, he is facing down a bigger demon: junk food. This morning, Khan has been touring the studios unveiling plans to ban adverts for unhealthy food on London’s tubes and buses. It is clear the mayor has got his priorities all wrong. What’s more, this censorship is bad for free speech. It also does very little to actually deal with what Khan calls the ‘ticking timebomb’ of childhood obesity.

The press release announcing the plan tells us that almost 40 per cent of London 10- and 11-year-olds are ‘overweight or obese’. This is typical of claims made for interventionist public-health policies, in that it lumps together the mildly chubby with the unhealthily obese in order to create a high number. Despite the scaremongering, the reality is that a very small proportion of children in the UK have a serious weight problem. In such cases, what is needed is medical help, not bans on adverts for burgers and chocolate bars.

It also hardly seems right to say obesity is a ‘ticking timebomb’ when, according to NHS figures, childhood obesity rates in England peaked over a decade ago. So the obesity ‘timebomb’ we were warned about – and which Khan has again referred to – has never gone off. The kids we fretted about in the mid-noughties, who munched on turkey twizzlers and were the subject of handwringing shows like Jamie’s School Dinners and Honey, We’re Killing the Kids, have long since become adults without dropping dead. So can today’s kids really not be trusted with being occasionally exposed to pictures of a Big Mac?

After all, the idea that adverts on the tube or buses are the thing prompting children to eat ‘junk’ is laughable.

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