Our policy on obesity and diet
Get in touch with our policy team to find out more information about our work and our policies.
It’s time to end junk food advertising to kids. We believe the following measures are key priorities to implement as part of the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan:
- Introduce a 9pm watershed on junk food advertising
- Introduce similar restrictions online
- Introduce legislation to restrict multi-buy price promotions
Obesity and cancer
Being overweight or obese is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking and causes 13 types of cancer. An obese child is five times more likely to remain so as an adult, so acting early can protect them from a lifetime of avoidable ill-health and disease.
Tackling unhealthy environmental factors that lead to a poor diet and excessive weight can help reduce the risk of cancer in the UK.
Childhood obesity is at critical levels in the UK
- Around one third of children aged 2-15 are overweight and obese with rates highest in the most deprived groups.
- Each year, obesity is estimated to cost £6.1bn to the NHS and £27bn to the UK economy - putting strain on NHS resources and this country’s economic productivity.
- If current trends continue, obesity could overtake smoking as the biggest preventable cause of cancer among UK women by 2040
Unless urgent action is taken, it is predicted that half of all children will be overweight or obese by 2020 and obesity could cause 670,000 new cases of cancer in adults in the UK over the next twenty years.
Progress so far
We welcomed Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan and its aim to halve childhood obesity rates by 2030. The Plan committed to consult on many measures that we have campaigned for.
The Government is asking for feedback on its proposals to restrict junk food marketing to children on TV and online. We will be sending in our response and following developments closely to make sure the suggested measures are robust and implemented to their full effect. In particular, we want to see a 9pm watershed on junk food advertising on TV (including catch-up TV) and similar restrictions online.
Although there is no silver bullet to reduce obesity, there is overwhelming evidence that junk food marketing impacts children’s eating habits.
- The more junk food ads on TV young people see, the more they eat – and that could amount to over 500 extra snacks throughout the year.
- Recalling one broadcast junk food advert a day predicts an extra 18,000 calories consumed in a year, or almost 350 calories per week.
- Teenagers have more than twice the risk of being obese if they could remember seeing a junk food advert every day compared to those who couldn’t recall any over a month.
- Children who used the Internet for over 3 hours per day are almost 4 times more likely to buy junk food products then children who used the Internet for little or no time.
But tackling children’s obesity requires a UK-wide, whole-systems approach that reduces unhealthy choices and gives choice back to parents and families. Restricting junk food marketing is necessary , but it must also be supported by wider regulation of the food environment, including on price promotions.
Our work on obesity
We have been actively campaigning to reduce obesity rates in the UK since 2016, when we launched our call for a 9pm watershed on junk food marketing in 2016. We have previously successfully campaigned for the Soft Drinks Industry Levy and run public health campaigns to raise awareness of the link between obesity and cancer.
Obesity Health Alliance
We are also a steering group member of the Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of more than 40 organisations committed to share expertise and support Government to tackle the complex issue of overweight and obesity in the UK.
Building the evidence base
Our Cancer Policy Research Centre commissions and conducts research into obesity. We are building the evidence base on the link between the food environment and obesity, including junk food advertising and price promotions in store.