Eating on public transport

The outgoing Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies, tempted controversy recently. Why? She felt that in order to help combat obesity eating should be banned on public transport.

It is true to say obesity in the UK has grown in recent years particularly among the young. Lack of exercise and lack of places to play outdoors are a couple of factors. Outdoor play is almost a thing of the past as electronic devices now compete for our children’s attention.

Banning eating on public transport? Most of us, I am sure, are guilty of eating on a bus or train. On my infrequent visits to London I tend to buy a coffee to drink on the way home, depending on the time of day I might also have a sandwich or other snack as I do not like eating late at night. Far from being alone in this pastime others on the train are doing the same.

I think it depends on the journey length. My rail trips to London are about 60 minutes each way. As bus and underground journeys tend to be much shorter I can see there is not such a great need to eat. On a long railway journey of 4 hours are more are we meant to sit there salivating over what we would like to eat but cannot owing to this type of measure? A few years ago my wife and I had an enjoyable picnic lunch bought from the buffet car as we made our way to Edinburgh. We even washed it down with a (small) bottle of wine – each! Heaven forbid what our fellow passengers thought of us – probably nothing as many were doing the same.

The food and drink outlets at our train stations rely on passengers for much of their business. There are enough shops closing on the high streets up and down the country without those in transport hubs closing too.

A reader can, I hope, see both sides of this argument. Yes, a larger proportion of the population are heavier than previous generations. We do not need to be told what, when and where we can eat. It is a question of balance by eating more healthier foods but with the odd treat not doing any real harm. Education plays a part too, we do need to educate people to eat what is better for us. Banning food and drink on public transport cannot really happen unless, of course, parliamentary laws are introduced. Then the UK will become more of a “nanny” state than it already is.

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