Boots has begun removing sweets and chocolates from its tills, with all stores expected to have complied with the policy by the middle of April.

“At Boots we know we have a vital role in supporting our customers to make healthy choices, and we recognise the huge challenge that a busy lifestyle presents for them,” a statement from the company said.

“Every week our colleagues provide care and advice to millions of customers and patients, and help them get the information, products, services and support they need to make the best choices they can. Specifically on nutrition, we have already introduced even more options for healthier snacking in our stores, whilst still giving our customers the wide range of products they tell us they want. 

“We have also already begun reducing the visibility of chocolate and sweets throughout our stores, including at till points. Our intention is to have our tills free of all chocolate and sweets by mid-April 2016.”

Boots’ move comes after a host of food retailers pledged to remove confectionery from checkouts over the past year. These include Morrisons, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, The Co-operative Group, M&S and Sainsbury’s at its larger stores.

Boots’ policy shift was welcomed by the Junk Free Checkouts campaign.

The campaign is backed by the British Dietetic Association, the British Dental Association, the Children’s Food Campaign and Slimming World and is part of the Sustain charity for better food and farming.

“Boots is a big player and it is somewhere where children go with their parents to the pharmacy counters, and it has had racks of sweets and chocolates by the tills and queuing areas for some time.”

Children’s Food Campaign co-ordinator Malcolm Clark said there were some non-food high street retailers who did not purvey sweets and chocolates close to tills. But, of those that did, none that he was aware of had shown commitment similar to the likes of Aldi, Tesco, Lidl and Morrisons, which agreed to remove confectionery from their checkouts, and others such as Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Asda, which had varying policies to reduce their presence. 

“The government hasn’t put any pressure on them, so it is even more significant that Boots has taken this step given the delays in the government’s child obesity strategy,” said Clark. “There are still plenty of examples where nothing has changed and why a government strategy is needed. There should be mandatory measures on food promotion in the high street, including removing chocolate and sweets from the tills and queuing areas of all stores.”