Healthy Advertising Policy approved by Cabinet

The introduction of a healthier advertising policy in Tower Hamlets was approved by Cabinet last night, Wednesday 24 May. The policy will restrict the advertising of unhealthy food and drink products. Tower Hamlets is one of seven local authorities across the country to adopt this policy.

The policy will restrict the advertising of products high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) on all council-owned estates, assets and through procured advertising service contracts. It aims to reduce exposure to these unhealthy images that are often targeted at children, young adults and people living in more disadvantaged areas. 

Tower Hamlets has very high rates of childhood obesity. The latest data for Tower Hamlets shows that over 1 in 5 children in Reception have excess weight (meaning they are overweight or very overweight). This is higher than the England average. This more than doubles by Year 6, where over 2 in 5 children have excess weight, which is higher than the London and England averages.

 Mayor Lutfur Rahman said:  

“The environment where children grow up is incredibly influential and has an impact on their opportunities to be healthy. 

The increase in child obesity highlights how important it is for our neighbourhoods to provide and promote affordable, healthy food options and safe places for children to be active and play. This policy is part of a much larger programme of work to promote child health in the borough and will contribute towards the council’s priority to reduce health inequalities. 

We hope this policy will encourage other organisations in Tower Hamlets to adopt a similar policy.” 

The impacts of eating unhealthy foods have far-reaching consequences, including an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and poor mental health.

By limiting the promotion of unhealthy food and drink, the council aims to shift the narrative towards healthier options, supporting residents to make positive changes.   

Tower Hamlets is one of only seven leading local authorities to adopt a healthier advertising policy. 

Fran Bernhardt, Food Policy Specialist from Sustain who supported the council with the policy said: 

“We’re delighted to have worked with Tower Hamlets Council to remove the spotlight off unhealthy foods and drinks. They join a growing movement of local authorities taking a stand for child health with more than 100 councils coming to Sustain for advice on their own policies.  

This evidence-based policy has now become a no-brainer of a public health intervention and we hope the terrific news from Tower Hamlets will inspire local councils everywhere to take this important step for children’s health.” 

The council’s approach to supporting healthy weight includes a wide variety of projects and policies, working alongside partners and stakeholders to ensure children have the best opportunity to live happy, healthy lives.   

Some of the projects and policies include:  

  • Becoming the first local authority in England to fund universal free school meals up to the age of 16, with a phased rollout from September 2023  

  • Supporting families with making healthy decisions about feeding their babies and supporting early years settings to provide healthy environments 

  • Introducing a planning policy that restricts any new hot food takeaways near to schools, written into the Local Plan 

  • Ensuring new large developments undertake a health impact assessment, enabling further opportunities for children to run and play 

  • Working with local food businesses as part of the Food for Health Awards scheme to make changes to the way that they prepare, cook and sell their food to make healthy choices easier for their customers 

  • Leading the way in reducing food poverty, providing free school meals and partnering with the Felix project to provide an extra surplus of food during the holidays as well as activities 

  • Working with schools across the borough to encourage and support to provide healthy food, physical activity and good mental wellbeing at school 

  • Incorporating a Play Charter which sets out what we’re doing to ensure all children have access to, and can use, high quality inclusive play spaces  

Councillor Gulam Kibria Choudhury, lead member for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care said: 

“After consulting with local residents including young people, parents and businesses, it was clear that this policy was supported. 

All children have a right to be given the same chances to thrive and be healthy, no matter where they live. We can build a brighter future for all our children by making sure that our neighbourhoods provide affordable, healthy food options and places where they can play.” 

We will work with existing as well as any future businesses, to make sure they can advertise healthy food and drink.” 

The policy will come into effect for all new and current leases as they come up for renewal.