As a response to the UK’s fight against obesity, Brighton & Hove City Council has decided to limit the publicity for high fat, sugar, and salt foods (HFSS). This has led the council to propose a city-wide ban on fast food advertisements on bus and taxi shelters in an attempt to diminish increasing levels of obesity amongst its citizens.
Studies by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities have shown that by the end of 2022, 59.4% of the city’s population aged 18 and over were classified as overweight or obese, a significant increase from the 49.5% found in 2020.
HFSS products are irrefutably linked to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and other serious health conditions. As the Obesity Health Alliance’s surveys have demonstrated – fast food marketing significantly influences an individual’s consumption decisions, evidently contributing to increasing obesity rates. By reducing their promotion, the council aims to dissuade the population from consumption.
However, the policy has faced two main constraints: the current shelter advertising contract and potential loss of revenue. The city’s bus and taxi shelters are managed by Clear Channel under a contract that expires in March 2024. At the time of the council’s concession agreement on 7 December 2023, they had yet to decide whether the current contract would be extended, or a new short term contract was to be initiated – and if the contract holder for either option would accept the policy’s restrictions. In which case, the financial implications suggest that advertising revenue could suffer. It is estimated that 34% of current advertising income is related to fast food products, which could mean a loss of £148,000 from the total estimated revenue of £438,000.
However, the execution of similar policies in Bristol and London have proven that loss of revenue should not be of great concern as replacement of fast food ads occurred seamlessly. If this example is followed, the public health implications far outweigh financial concerns.
While the implementation of the ban is pending, the council’s efforts will pave the way for the city’s healthier future.