There was a time when obesity in schools was rare. But how things have changed. Last year 12.4 per cent of the children starting school in Scotland had a body mass index putting them at risk of being overweight; 10.5 per cent were at risk of being obese. And, slowly but surely, the situation is getting worse.

The extent of the slow creep of the problem has been underlined by the latest figures from the NHS, which show that 76.1 per cent of primary one youngsters were assessed as having a healthy body weight in 2016-17, which is down from 77.1 per cent in 2007-08. Over the same period, the proportion of children at risk of being overweight rose to 12.4 per cent from 11.9 per cent; the percentage at risk of being obese was also up from 9.2 per cent to 10.5 per cent.

Some, although by no means all, of the problem is linked to deprivation. Thirty or 40 years ago, one of the big health concerns in deprived communities would have been underweight children, but that problem is now relatively small and falling.

Instead, the latest figures show that in Scotland’s poorest communities, 26.4 per cent of primary one children are at risk of weighing too much, while in less deprived areas, the number falls to 18.3 per cent. It is a new and growing challenge, that comes with even bigger problems further down the road, such as more heart disease, cancer, diabetes and more stresses and strains on the NHS.

In response, the Scottish Government is developing a new strategy to tackle the problem, and has already come up with some quirky ideas such as The Daily Mile scheme which urges employers to encourage workers to take a break and walk a mile a day to improve their health. Tougher measures such as the sugar tax on fizzy drinks and other products will also be needed to force the market to change.

However, the problem of obesity can never be tackled until concerted action is taken on several fronts, as demonstrated by the progress made on smoking. New figures just released by the Scottish Government show that smoking while pregnant has fallen to the lowest level on record and, while it is still shocking that some 14 per cent of women smoke while pregnant, great progress has been made in convincing pregnant women and the population in general to give up.

The progress on smoking is down to three factors which will also be needed to change the statistics on obesity. First, more public campaigns aimed at raising awareness: no one should be left in any doubt about the effects of obesity. Second, social pressure – the kind that made it socially unacceptable to drink and drive or drink and smoke while pregnant.

And finally, we know that firm government action over the years on advertising, marketing, and labelling has dramatically reduced smoking and it must also be applied to the kind of food and drink that has helped make us fat.

The reduction in smoking has been a long, hard battle; now the same battle must be fought on obesity.