Scots back junk food advert bans

Thursday 6th June 2019

A new poll is pointing to strong support for a 9pm watershed for the advertising of unhealthy foods to help fight childhood obesity.

The survey commissioned by Obesity Action Scotland found majority support for a ban on junk food advertising on TV, online and outside the home before 9pm.

The group says current restrictions on advertising these products, which already prohibit placing ads around programmes that are aimed at kids, ‘do not go far enough’.

Nearly three quarters of those polled supported a ban on junk food ads being shown on TV before 9pm, with 69% agreeing this should also apply online to cover games, apps, social media and catch-up viewing.

A further 66% believe digital advertising outside the home, in places like bus shelters and cinemas, should also be banned.

And of the more than 1,000 people surveyed, two-thirds agreed unhealthy food advertising was fuelling child obesity.

The UK Government is currently consulting on plans to restrict the advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar.

As well as a 9pm cut-off point, UK ministers are considering an incentive scheme that would see companies that reduced the fat, salt and sugar content of their products being allowed to advertise partially.

Although outside the scope of the consultation, Obesity Action Scotland’s poll also found strong backing for a ban on cartoon characters and sports professionals being used on junk food packaging, and revealed support for food and drink companies being barred from sponsoring sport events.

The Scottish Government has previously consulted on clamping down on unhealthy food marketing and promotions in shops and restaurants, but powers over broadcasting and TV advertising are reserved to Westminster.

Earlier this month, Cancer Research UK called for Scottish Ministers to restrict price promotions on unhealthy foods amid fears obesity will become the leading preventable cause of cancer.

Lorraine Tulloch, Programme Lead of Obesity Action Scotland, said: “We know that junk food adverts influence what children eat and contribute to childhood obesity. The current restrictions on advertising do not go far enough and we want to see the UK Government implement a 9pm watershed across all forms of digital media.”

“Adults across Scotland have indicated their strong support for such action. It’s time for government to step up to protect the health of our children. We urge everyone to take a few minutes to respond to the consultation and advise the government that they want to see action now.”

Responding to the report, Labour’s health spokesperson, Monica Lennon, said: “Scottish Labour have previously called for restrictions on promotions and marketing of foods high in salt, fat and sugar, and the SNP Government should not shy away from bold action on this.

“Restrictions on food sales must also be coupled with a strategy to make healthy options more affordable, alongside efforts to tackle poverty – which is often the root cause of ill health.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Tackling obesity is a public health priority and our Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan includes a wide a range of bold measures designed to help families make healthier choices.

“We welcome the UK Government’s current consultation on a 9pm watershed on broadcast TV advertising of products that are high in fat, salt or sugar and similar protection for children viewing adverts online, to reduce the overconsumption of these products. We urge that they move quickly to take action.”