Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to ban advertising for “harmful” products including vaping, junk food and “sugary snacks” to children if Labour is elected into power.
He outlined his plans for reforms to the NHS, Labour’s third ‘mission’ for government, in a speech this morning, setting out a bid to shift to a prevention-focused approach, including a ban on junk food, vaping and sugar adverts.
“When I say we will take on the social media companies who push dangerous misogyny on our children I am saying very clearly to those who profit from harming our children – no, not in Britain,” Starmer said.
“We will change advertising rules and we will make sure that products which are harmful to our children’s health, vaping, junk food, sugary snacks, cannot be advertised to our children.”
It comes after ministers introduced a sugar tax on soft drinks in 2016 – but delayed plans for a ban on junk food adverts before 9pm.
The Institute for Government (IfG) referred to its “squeamishness” on tackling obesity and warned the delay would lead to higher taxes and lower productivity.
Delivering a speech at an ambulance station in Essex, Sir Keir also pledged the health service would meet four-hour A&E targets and ambulance response times by 2030.
The Labour leader told the BBC this morning that sugary foods should not be advertised to under-18s “in his very strong view”.
He said: “It’s so bad for their health, so bad for the NHS.”
But he also ruled out imposing a tax on salty and sugary foods during the cost-of-living crisis if Labour comes to power.
“We don’t want to go down the road of making food more expensive in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis,” he said.
“Today we’ll focus on advertising rather than increasing the cost to food, because I think for many families who are already struggling the idea that food prices would go up again is something which simply wouldn’t be tolerable from their point of view.”
Responding to the speech, a Conservative Party source said: “Cutting waiting lists is one of our top five priorities. We have already seen 18 month waits down 91 per cent from the peak and two year waits virtually eliminated.
“If Labour wanted to address waiting lists, they shouldn’t have voted against Conservative plans for more doctors. If Labour wanted to address NHS efficiency, they shouldn’t be setting out a plan for thousands of more NHS managers.”
A Nestle spokesperson told CityA.M. while the brand has strict rules on marketing to children they “would be pleased to engage with any government on steps that improve public health”.
He added: “We would need to see the detail of any legislation but have consistently said we are open to the idea of effective regulation in the UK that creates a level playing field, drives proper innovation in our sector and has the desired health outcomes we all wish to see.
“We apply the UK government’s nutritional profiling model. This means we carefully consider the placement, content and execution of the advertising of foods considered high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) to avoid targeting children under the age of 16 in the UK.”
But a spokesperson for Totally Wicked, a UK vape distributor, said: “Unlike the other product categories cited, vaping products are already heavily regulated.
“The Tobacco & Related Products Regulations (2016) restricts the type of advertising that can be undertaken, including prohibiting TV advertising.”
They added: “The association of vaping alongside these more widely available and heavily promoted and advertised products is an inappropriate comparison.
“It requires a much more carefully considered approach and set of actions to ensure only adults over 18-years-old continue to enjoy this transformative product.”