A nutritionist has likened the sales of sweets, chocolate and crisps at store checkouts to those of cigarettes and has called for a ban. 

Mel Wakeman, a senior lecturer in nutrition and applied psychology at Birmingham University, said that if the government has banned cigarettes from being on display at tills, then it was “about time the same principle was applied to unhealthy snacks”. She pointed to the impact poor health and obesity have on NHS services to add weight to her argument.

She said: “As a nation we should be reducing much of the added sugar in our diet, but we need help to do this. Being constantly tempted to pick up junk food at the checkout is undermining our efforts to be healthier.

“The UK is in a captive junk food market and stores need to have more socially responsible marketing policies that don’t encourage unhealthy impulse buys.”

German discounter Aldi banned all confectionery from its checkouts in January this year following a trial of displaying healthier options of fruit and nuts. Wakeman has written to other stores, including Marks & Spencer, Asda, Sainsbury’s Local and WHSmith, urging them to follow suit. All have replied bar Sainsbury’s thus far.

“Marks & Spencer’s response was very disappointing, as was WHSmith’s,” Wakeman summarised. “Both stores seem very keen to pass the buck and make huge assumptions about their customers’ requirements and habits.

“WHSmith said that it trains its staff to never offer promotions repeatedly to regular customers or to anyone who has made it known they do not wish to be advised about such promotions. Can someone tell me how a WHSmith cashier would keep track of whether a customer is regular and if they have previously requested to not be told about unhealthy till point promotions?

“We need the government to better protect the future of the British public and for the facts about obesity to be realised. Children and teenagers are now consuming around 40% more added sugar than the daily recommended allowance and we’re now seeing diabetes, high blood pressure and signs of heart disease in young children.”

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