The purported objective is to reduce the rate of obesity, although there is little evidence that it is likely to prove effective. Experience shows that advertising and promotion may affect product choice, but have little impact on the total quantity purchased. And, even if it did work to some extent, should we really be treating adult consumers like naughty children who cannot control their urges? As stated by Tom Harris in this article, which in general has been very much superseded by events:
I must accept that no one forces me to eat pizza or Mars Bars; those are my choices, made by an adult with the full knowledge of the consequences. To assume that other, mostly poorer citizens have no such agency strikes me as unforgivably patronising.However, it has come into force, and shops have to rejig their displays to comply and find something else to replace the HFSS items. One obvious candidate is alcoholic drinks, which are not covered by the same restrictions, and Grocery Gazette reports a significant increase in such displays, something borne out by my own observation.
At the time of the smoking ban fifteen years ago, I and many other of its opponents argued strongly that similar restrictions would inevitably be applied to alcoholic drinks sooner or later. However, in practice very little has happened in that direction, although the Irish Republic and other parts of the UK have gone somewhat further down the road than England. I wrote about this at the beginning of 2020.
What I would never have predicted is that so much of the energy of public health lobbyists would be redirected towards so-called “unhealthy” food. And there is more to come, with severe restrictions on the online advertising of HFSS products to come next year, which will make it very difficult for smaller producers to promote their businesses. So far, alcohol has escaped relatively lightly. But it would be very complacent to assume that will always be the case.