Online junk food ads aimed at children to be banned

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Online advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar aimed at children is to be banned under new rules coming into effect next year.


As of next year, all online junk food ads aimed at children will be banned

The new rules banning the advertising of high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) food or drink in children’s media, will apply across all non-broadcast media including in print, cinema, online and in social media targeted at under-16s, and will come into effect on 1 July 2017.

Under the restrictions, characters and celebrities popular with children will no longer be allowed to advertise unhealthy options.

The move by the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) to bring non-broadcast advertising restrictions in line with the rules for TV, is designed to protect the health and well-being of children.

It is in response to wider concerns surrounding childhood obesity, as well as shifting media habits among children, and follows a public consultation into online advertising.

Research published by Ofcom last month showed that young people aged five-15 spend around 15 hours a week online – overtaking the time spent watching TV for the first time.

The CAP says that while there are many factors that have an impact on childhood obesity, it believes that the new advertising restrictions could play a meaningful role in reducing ‘potential harms’ to children.

James Best, chairman of the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP), said, ‘Childhood obesity is a serious and complex issue and one that we’re determined to play our part in tackling. These restrictions will significantly reduce the number of ads for high, fat, salt or sugar products seen by children. Our tough new rules are a clear demonstration that the ad industry is willing and ready to act on its responsibilities and puts the protection of children at the heart of its work.’

Professor Nena Modi, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said, ‘This is another positive step forward in the fight to tackle the rising prevalence of overweight and obesity in children, and the damaging health effects of junk food and fizzy drinks.

‘Children are influenced a great deal by advertising. There are shows which are not specifically targeted at children, that draw in thousands of children every week, and often have fast food adverts shown multiple times over the course of the broadcast. With over a fifth of children in the UK overweight or obese when they start primary school and a third by the time they reach year six, surely it is time for Government to strengthen rules around all advertising, and ban the advertising of foods high in salt, sugar and fat on television before the 9pm watershed.’

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said, 'It is encouraging to see CAP supporting further restrictions on advertising of high sugar, salt and fat products to young people.  The real test will be on whether it has any impact. We’re especially interested in how this will reduce young people’s exposure to advertising of these products across all non-broadcast media, including online.'

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