I saw an exciting news item for health and cancer risk reduction in the new Government programme for work in 2017-18 (A nation with Ambition). On page 95 (yes, you have to scroll quite far) I saw this announcement:

“We will make progress to limit marketing of products high in salt, sugar and fat which contribute to ill health and obesity.”
Scottish Government, 2017

There is no doubt that the progress needs to visible, measurable and have clout. We have learnt so much from smoking about the power of commercial marketing that any government serious about obesity, diabetes and other diet related disorders simply has to grasp the metal.


Some years ago (2014) we wrote an editorial in our newsletter about the then marketing practices and sales techniques of WH Smith, but there are many other examples of ways that the public are lured into excess calorie consumption including value for money appeals – the two for one, the cheaper price for giant portions and numerous voucher systems. The images below are only some that we captured in our everyday lives…bright, colourful and successful at the plumping of a nation.

Our previous blog on our obesogenic, carcinogenic environment highlighted the Scottish National Food and Drink policy – which recognised that the influence of Scotland’s well-crafted health education programmes “…are competing with media and commercial messages which lead to confusion and poor comprehension of basic messages.” Yet we continue to invest in food education in the vague hope that we can counteract superb marketing.

Our review of the evidence (from statutory and self-regulatory actions, and educational measures to reduce the negative impact of energy dense foods to children) lead by Stephanie Chambers showed some very clear results. In total, forty-seven publications were included, and our findings showed that statutory regulation could reduce the volume of – and children’s exposure to – advertising for foods high in fat, sugar and salt, and had potential for a wider impact. Self-regulatory approaches showed varied results in reducing children’s exposure, and there was only limited support for educational measures.

Here’s hoping that Government use an evidence based approach in their actions in 2017, and actions that will impact on marketing to adults, as well as children.