Banning junk food from checkout counters could help reduce obesity and health problems

Public health will benefit from unhealthy snack options being banned at checkout counters in England

Unhealthy snacks are widely available at checkout counters in Canada. (Kristen Frier)

Supermarkets and grocery stores are one-stop shops for everything you need and more. In every aisle, you can find everything you are looking for like detergents, sauces, utensils, and food.

You can choose among a wide variety of products for daily consumption. It is like a magical wonderland, but it can also be considered as a place of temptation for unhealthy food choices. And an undeniable fact is that these stores give more of the spotlight to unhealthy snacks like chips and sugary drinks.

To address problems of obesity, England announced a future ban on placing junk foods and sugary drinks near checkout counters, end of aisles, and store entrances. This also includes promotions and bulk buy offers to large retailers with over 50 employees, though exemptions may be put into place for specialist retailers such as chocolate shops.

The House of Commons Library Obesity Statistics in England mentions that 28.7 per cent of adults are obese and 35.6 per cent are overweight. With the aim to reduce these numbers in the upcoming years, the government will enforce the restrictions by April 2022 after further consultation.

In Canada, obesity is one of the most challenging issues for health as numbers continuously rise throughout the years. In 2018, Statistics Canada reported that 26.8 per cent of adults, ranging from 18 years and older, are classified as obese, and 36.3 per cent are overweight.

Cases of obesity in B.C. reached 23.1 per cent, while higher numbers are found in other parts of Canada. If obesity is not managed, it may lead to chronic diseases such as heart disease and hypertension, and may worsen when a person has existing health conditions.

We should look at England as an example of making better health policies to solve the rapid rise of obesity. The idea of removing these snacks at the checkout counter and other display areas is one way to help people avoid the temptation of purchasing chips right before paying.

When you see the “buy-one, get-one” sale or 50 per cent discount promotions near the cashier, it tricks you into buying more, even if you do not need it. It also exposes you to different options of snacks that are high in sugar or sodium, which is directly related to obesity.

Rather than walking out of the supermarket after ignoring all the unhealthy options, it makes you look twice and grab the current deals.

Aside from encouraging people to change their lifestyles, eat a healthier diet, and engage in physical activities, the Canadian government should also have regulations and restrictions on junk foods, sweets, and soft drinks. For example, B.C. does not place a sales tax exemption on sugary drinks, which makes them slightly pricier.

This could help individuals be more aware of food contents and be more conscious of their food and lifestyle choices. Coming up with other solutions like England did will drastically change people’s risk of obesity and other similar diseases. Through advocacy and smart policies, an individual’s and government’s collective efforts against obesity can bring forth a brighter and healthier future for generations to come.