A leading cancer charity has criticised the Scottish Government for delaying a ban on multi-buy junk food deals.
Cancer Research UK said it was “disappointing” that legislation would not be introduced this year.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s Programme for Government vowed to “continue work to bring forward a Bill on restricting foods promotions”.
But it added that, rather than taking action immediately, it would look to introduce the measure in “next year’s Legislative Programme”.
Cancer Research UK’s cancer prevention expert, Professor Linda Bauld, said: “Junk food price promotions such as ‘buy one, get one free’ are harmful, so the decision to introduce world-leading laws to prevent them from continuing to fuel Scotland’s obesity epidemic is an important step towards better public health.
“It is, however, disappointing that legislation will be delayed until next year.
“Introducing legislation has won the approval of the public, as well as Scotland’s medical community. Politicians must listen. Given our growing waistlines, they have a duty to act.
“Now’s the time to turn the tide on obesity. The health of our nation depends upon it.
“Any hold-up in introducing these measures is at the expense of Scotland’s health and life chances, as well as adding to the ever-growing burden on the NHS.
“Obesity is the second-biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, so immediate action to help us all eat healthier diets is vital.
“At a time when more than a fifth of all children in Scotland are carrying too much weight and three in 10 adults in Scotland are obese, the Government must timetable regulations so they can be introduced and passed before the next Scottish Parliament elections.”
People in Scotland are, on average, among the most overweight in Europe – with bad diet a major factor.
Doctors believe obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, with 2200 new cases linked every year.
Labour’s shadow health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “Tackling Scotland’s obesity epidemic requires bold and urgent action.
“Scottish Labour has long urged SNP ministers not to shy away from changing the law to help prevent this killer disease.
“When it comes to junk food, ministers should take inspiration from the ban on smoking in public places.
“The quicker action is taken, the more lives will be saved.”
Cancer Research UK had wanted Holyrood to restrict offers such as three-for-two chocolate bars and “buy one, get one free” crisps this year.
The charity’s call for action has been backed by the Scottish Obesity Alliance.
Several top doctors and public health experts came together earlier this year to sign an open letter urging action.
In August, the Sunday Mail found junk food multi-buy deals available across Scotland.
Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “Having the right measures in place to restrict junk food promotions which encourage over-consumption and impulse buying will help us achieve our ambition to halve childhood obesity by 2030.
“That’s why I will introduce a Bill as soon as is practicable.”