Press Story

Move to tackle obesity would level playing field against advertisers who spend 30x more on ads than the government does on healthy eating

The IPPR think tank today welcomes the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendation that Government should act to end the aggressive advertisement of junk food to children.

Dame Sally Davies’ independent report has proposed the phased end to all marketing, sponsorship and advertising of less healthy food and drink products, across all mediums. Critically, she also recommends standardised packaging, similar to tobacco packaging, to be introduced to high sugar and high calorie products, unless serious action is taken to reformulate them.

In June an IPPR report Ending the Blame Game made a similar proposal to introduce plain packaging to sweets and confectionary. The report argued that restricting junk food marketing will have an immediate and sustained impact on the obesity crisis. The report also found:

  • Spending on advertising is rampant and unchecked. The amount spent on advertising junk food is nearly 30 times what government spends promoting healthy eating.
  • Bright coloured packaging of sweets and chocolate have been shown to trigger automatic responses in people, making it more likely they will buy them.
  • Packaging often uses cartoons, toys and character specifically aimed at children – a practice wholly inappropriate when childhood obesity is rising
  • In a comprehensive evidence review, Public Health England showed that reducing marketing and advertising of high sugar foods does reduce sugar content.

Harry Quilter-Pinner, IPPR Senior Research Fellow, Said:

"We live in pro-obesity environment where the unhealthy choice is often the easiest and cheapest to make. We must take bold action now to level the playing field and end the obesity crisis. Measures that ensure people are put before profit, such as plain packaging for confectionary, would be a major step in the right direction."



Robin Harvey, Digital and Media Officer, 02074706154


  1. The IPPR paper which proposed plain packaging in June, “Ending the Blame Game: The case for a new approach to public health and prevention” by Dean Hochlaf, Harry Quilter-Pinner and Tom Kibasi, is available for download at:
  2. Professor Dame Sally Davies’ report “Time to Solve Childhood Obesity: An Independent Report by the Chief Medical Officer, 2019” is published on Thursday 10th October.
  3. The IPPR report Ending the Blame Game is part of IPPR’s Better Health and Care programme, which builds on the work of the Lord Darzi Review, IPPR’s ground-breaking independent review of the NHS and social care, published in June 2018.
  4. Lord Darzi wrote an op-ed making the case for plain packaging for confectionary. This can be read here:
  5. IPPR is the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence