During his successful campaign to become the new Conservative leader in the summer, Boris Johnson promised to tackle the “continuing creep of the nanny state” should he become Prime Minister. Now he is ensconced in Downing Street, Mr Johnson’s pledge will be put to the test after England’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies suggested that eating on public transport should be banned to stop children snacking.
Nobody likes taking a seat on public transport to be surrounded by detritus left behind by the previous incumbent and it can undoubtedly sometimes be unpleasant if someone is eating something with a strong smell in a shared space. However, that is not the aim of this policy which is part of proposals designed to reduce childhood obesity.
Dame Sally’s other recommendations more persuasively include extending the so-called ‘sugar tax’ to unhealthy food after the levy was successfully used to reduce the amount of sugar in fizzy drinks.
Stopping everyone eating on a train, bus or tram journey is likely to have an incredibly limited effect on a child’s general eating habits and will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to police. Rail companies which make considerable amounts of money from selling food and drink on their services are also unlikely to be impressed.
While smoking was once prevalent on public transport, that ban is far more legitimate as cigarette smoke harms other passengers – whereas eating and drinking whatever an individual chooses does not. Education rather than such restrictive measures is surely a better way to address childhood obesity.