Remember when plain-pack proposals and bans for tobacco were excused by public health bodies as being a one-off, exclusively for cigarettes? We suspected it was a lie then, and know it to be one now. It’s the first month of plain packaging for tobacco products in the UK and, as if on cue, another story has emerged of another product to be considered for a ban of some kind.

This time, it’s junk food. Specifically, junk food on public transport, which should be banned. Now, you may think that a falafel wrap with extra quinoa and an accompanying carton of kiwi juice might sound like junk, but sadly, that’s not what’s meant here. Ostensibly, the reason for proposing the banning of junk food is for the benefit of other commuters; apparently it can ‘smell’. We can’t really disagree with that, as most foods do emit odours, but presumably it can’t be that this food smells bad. If it did, what would compel people to eat it? Smell tests are a pretty well established human habit of judging the value of a foodstuff, after all.

The idea that food might be banned for offending olfactory senses is, of course, utter nonsense. This is an attempt to police what people eat. More, it is an attack upon the poor and harried; public transport is a convenient necessity for millions who cannot afford alternate means, whilst fast food is often the best way to eat on the go, when people don’t have the hours at the end of the day to prepare something suitable for the next morning. And what is to say what is and is not junk food? Does a salad automatically become junk because it comes in McDonalds packaging? Will conductors be asked to check the fat and salt levels of a gourmet burger?

Fortunately, Chris Snowdon of the IEA ventured onto Good Morning Britain at the start of the week, to howl with indignation at this mammoth intrusion into people’s basic right to eat what they want. You can catch a glimpse of this lesser-spotted libertarian in his natural habitat here.

by Julia Dixon