Should We Ban Food On Public Transport?

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In the past few weeks, there has been a call to action from multiple parties to ban food on public transport. Dame Sally Davies, ex-Chief Medical Officer of the UK, has claimed that this ban will help to end Britain’s “mindless” snack culture. She is the same woman who also advocates using plain packaging for chocolate and crisps and adding taxes to unhealthy snacks. But is banning food and drink on public transport going too far?
According to her final report, children are “drowning in a flood of unhealthy food and drink options”. With obesity having doubled in the UK in the past 30 years, it certainly seems like limiting the number of places we can mindlessly consume food and drink would be the next logical step forward. As is advocated by Dame Sally, if we stop eating and drinking on public transport – apart from water – then not only will adults consume less, but children will be less exposed to a ‘snacking culture’ which could, as is argued, impact on their own snacking decisions.

But what about if you oversleep in the morning, prefer to eat on the go or just want a simple snack throughout the day? Breakfast on the go or a small snack while travelling might be a part of someone’s everyday routine. Should we force them to stop just because some people may not be able to control themselves? It doesn’t seem fair on a large portion of the population that eat or drink on the go as part of a balanced diet. Or to the people that might simply be running late and need something to get them through the morning. Plus, when it comes to teaching children which food is and isn’t healthy, shouldn’t parents already be educating them about this? We shouldn’t have to rely upon taking away everyone’s right to snack to teach kids – and even adults – how to be healthy, this should already be taught from an early age. Besides, it’s likely that other problems will also be created, such as people beginning to sneak food onto public transport, which could lead to more litter left behind because of fear of being caught. Plus, if people are only going to sneak food on anyway, it just makes the whole ban seem worthless.

Certainly, I agree that as a nation we should be snacking less often, and for sure this ban will improve that, but I’m not sure making snaking on public transport more inconvenient for people is the way forward. Indeed, Japan has already banned food on local transport. As we know, Japan has one of the longest life expectancies in the world, but saying that banning snacks on public transport will finally make buses, trains and tubes “a safe place for children” is absolutely ludicrous. For me, this statement dramatises a simple bus ride when it really doesn’t need to; a child seeing a chocolate bar being eaten really isn’t threatening if that child has already been educated about the dangers of an unbalanced diet. The fact of the matter is that if a child asks their parents for too many unhealthy snacks, the parents should say no, or simply offer an alternative of fruit.

I don’t see the need to ban the whole nation from eating on public transport just so children don’t become ‘brainwashed’. There are other, more effective ways to improve the overall health of the nation. Certainly, I agree that obesity is an increasingly pressing issue in the UK, but undoubtedly better education is a more effective way to help the children of the future. Unless you’re stinking out the bus with a particularly potent curry, I don’t mind you eating whatever you want!

Jack Whyles