Page 3997 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 30 October 2013

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If people think we can avoid these discussions, put our heads in the sand and just hope it is going to change, they are wrong. All the data will show that that is the wrong approach. Governments need to lead on these matters, and we will lead. We will be careful. I know I will be accused of being a nanny state, but we have those statistics confronting us, just like governments in the 1970s had about smoking and the impact of smoking. Being overweight is linked to cancer, it is linked to heart disease, it is linked to diabetes, it is linked to chronic disease. It has the exact same—

Mr Smyth: What about alcohol?

MS GALLAGHER: Children are not drinking alcohol like they are drinking Coke, Mr Smyth. They are simply not doing it. We have a quarter of our four-year-old population overweight or obese now. Imagine what that is going to be like in 20 years if we see the consumption patterns that we are seeing now continue.

This is not about denying people a lolly bag or a glass of lemonade at a party. It is not about that. But the availability of high-sugar content food, the consumption of it and the lack of understanding, I think—I understand that it is hard for parents to understand the impact that some of these products are having on their children’s health but we have to start the conversation. Governments need to lead and we will lead in the facilities where we have control for it.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mrs Jones.

MRS JONES: Minister, what steps used in tobacco control are under consideration for soft drinks, as indicated in your answer last week?

MS GALLAGHER: One, we banned tobacco from a number of places, so that you cannot actually smoke. When I was growing up you could smoke in your workplace. That was regulated; you are not allowed to do it anymore. And shock, horror—the numbers of smokers go down and the rate of smoking goes down. We do not allow smoking in our restaurants anymore. Again, the impact that has had on smoking rates is that they have gone down.

In relation to supermarkets, children can no longer buy cigarettes. That was something that used to be allowed. Cigarettes are not able to be displayed anymore. They have to be behind a cupboard. So that is another example of regulation, and not suggestive selling. Plain packaging is another intervention by government to regulate and require healthy messages to be put on a product that, if taken as directed, will kill you. So they are some examples of successful regulation.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Berry.

MS BERRY: Minister, could you outline for the Assembly the obesity and overweight prevention efforts already underway in schools as part of the healthy weight action plan?

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