Labour promises curbs on food and tobacco marketing

The Labour Party has promised to "take tougher action" to protect children from "commercial pressures caused by alcohol, sugar and smoke", a thinly veiled criticism of some of the marketing practices adopted by food and tobacco firms designed to appeal to the young.

Plain cigarette packaging: has not yet been introduced in the UK
Plain cigarette packaging: has not yet been introduced in the UK

Labour stressed that should it get into power this year, it would deliver on some of the promises that the current government has reneged on.

The party pointed out that the Coalition under David Cameron has failed to introduce unbranded cigarette packaging, in spite of promises to put regulations in place before May's General Election.

Levels of fat, sugar and salt in foods marketed primarily to children will be curbed, while Labour has said it will introduce changes to labelling to help adults better understand what they and their children are consuming.

The party said it would work at an EU level to introduce traffic-light labelling of packaged food and drink, while it would use marketing to promote healthier, more active lifestyles.

Some companies have already voluntarily introduced traffic-light labelling, including Coca-Cola, which U-turned on a previous decision not to change its packaging.

Other measures proposed by Labour will target low-price, high-strength alcohol products, with plans being mooted to increase prices and reduce packaging sizes.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham accused Cameron and his government of cronyism and holding vested interests with big business.

Burnham will outline his party’s plans during a speech at Demos, insisting that rather than adopting a "finger-wagging approach", Labour will "empower adults with information" so they can make informed choices.

In today’s speech, Burnham will say, "In a century of rising demand, helping people take more responsibility for their own health will be essential if we are to ensure the NHS remains affordable and sustainable for the future.

"As part of this, children will need better protection from the pressures of modern living and the harm caused by alcohol, sugar and smoke and Labour will not flinch from taking the action needed to provide it.

"David Cameron and his Government are too close to powerful vested interests to stand up for our children. This new positive approach will help give all children a healthy start and help adults to get the most out of life."

"The promises are designed to ensure that the NHS "remains affordable and sustainable in the century of the ageing society."

The measures are not just designed to improve consumer health but also to reduce financial pressure on the NHS.

Labour cited figures that claim that unless action is taken to stop the rise of obesity and diabetes, the cost of diabetes will rise from £10bn to £17bn by 2035.

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