Bus stop advertising in Luton

Luton has become the eighth local authority to launch restrictions on advertising for HFSS food and drinks.

The move, which will see a ban on ads for unhealthy products across its entire advertising estate, has been drawn up with health campaign group Sustain and follows measures first brought in by the Mayor of London across the Transport for London network in 2019.

Seven other local authorities across the UK have brought in a policy: Haringey, Southwark, Merton, Greenwich, Bristol, Barnsley and Tower Hamlets.

Evidence from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s evaluation of the TFL scheme subsequently claimed the restrictions led to a 20% reduction in weekly  purchases of sugary products, and a 1,000-calorie decrease per week per household from unhealthy foods and drink.

However, the government has rowed back on its plans for restrictions on HFSS advertising, including plans for a junk food watershed on TV and restrictions online.

They have been delayed along with plans for a crackdown on HFSS multibuy promotions in stores until at least October 2025.

“We want everyone in Luton to have the best possible chance of living a healthy life,” said Luton council’s director of public health Sally Cartwright.

“This new policy is just one example of what we’re doing to make it easier to be healthy. We’ll be working collaboratively with businesses to make sure they can advertise healthy food and drink on council-owned advertising.”

Fran Bernhardt, children’s food co-ordinator at Sustain, added: “At a time when our national government is repeatedly failing children and adults by stalling on important health measures, Luton council has stood up to the food and drinks industry on behalf of all their residents.

“We know those living in the most deprived areas are most affected by unhealthy food advertising, and most at risk from diet-related diseases. So by removing the spotlight from unhealthy foods, Luton is supporting their local area to level up. Huge congratulations to Luton. You will inspire many others to follow suit.”