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New ban on advertising junk food to children
New rules have come into place banning the advertising of foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar to children
The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has placed a ban on adverts promoting unhealthy foods and drinks to children whether directly or indirectly, and where the audience is at least one quarter children. The rules will apply in print, in the cinema and online including in social media – an important change as children now spend more time online than watching TV, for which there are already some restrictions in place.
The ban is a welcome development after last year’s Childhood Obesity Plan – which set out how the government plans to address the overwhelming problem of obesity in children – failed to address the issue of advertising to children. Numerous health charities including Public Health England campaigned for an advertising ban before the plan was finalised, but the ban was omitted from the final version, to extensive media criticism.
Blood Pressure UK’s Nutritionist Shefalee Loth comments:
“The food habits and preferences formed in childhood continue into later life, and eating foods high in salt, fat and sugar not only leads to obesity but to high blood pressure and a number of other health problems as well. The ban is a small but important step in tackling obesity and high blood pressure, and the next step campaigners are pushing for is tighter restrictions on advertising during popular programmes such as the X Factor.”
The Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of over 40 organisations, explains the rules need to go further: “The new rules acknowledge it is wrong to advertise junk food to children, but only take a small step in the right direction. For too long children have been relentlessly bombarded with junk food adverts online, on billboards outside schools and at the cinema.
“But just like the problems with current TV rules, we are concerned they don’t go far enough and loopholes mean they only apply when over 25% of the audience is children. This will be impossible to monitor and mean millions of children will still be exposed to adverts which we know lead them to unhealthy food choices. We need rules that are fit for purpose and reflect the way our children watch and engage with media online and on TV.”