Majority favour ban on junk food advertising to kids

By June Shannon Policy News   |   7th Nov 2018

Irish Heart Foundation event hears junk food advertising is fueling childhood obesity and damaging children’s health

The vast majority or 71 per cent of Irish adults are in favour of banning the advertising of junk food to children, a new poll has revealed.

According to the findings of a new poll for the Irish Heart Foundation, more than 7 in 10 Irish adults would support an outright ban on the advertising and promotion of unhealthy food and drinks to children, amid concerns over their role in Ireland’s childhood obesity crisis.

The poll by IPSOS MRBI which was carried out last month, showed that 71 per cent of respondents supported a blanket ban on the advertising of products such as sugary drinks, snack foods, chocolate bars and crisps to children under 16 with 26 per cent against and don’t knows of 3 per cent.

It also found that 79 per cent believed advertising was a “very big” or “fairly big” contributor to childhood obesity. Meanwhile, 89 per cent of adults rated childhood obesity as “a very big” or “fairly big” concern in Ireland.

The research also revealed that a ban on junk food marketing to children was heavily supported across all age groups, social classes and regions in Ireland. There was strong support for the ban regionally, with support at 72 per cent in Connaught/Ulster, followed by 70 per cent in Munster, 70 per cent in Leinster and 71 per cent in Dublin.

“ There is conclusive and long-standing proof of a causal link between junk food marketing to children and child obesity. We know junk food marketing to children is rampant, we know it is fueling obesity,"

Mr Tim Collins, CEO, , Irish Heart Foundation

Mr Tim Collins, CEO, Irish Heart Foundation said: “There is conclusive and long-standing proof of a causal link between junk food marketing to children and child obesity. We know junk food marketing to children is rampant, we know it is fuelling obesity, we know this is damaging children’s health and we know the State is not doing enough to tackle the problem and is failing in its duty of care to protect children’s health.”

The Ipsos MRBI research was released at the launch of a new parents’ campaign group in Dublin today (Wednesday 07 November) as part of the Irish Heart Foundation’s Stop Targeting Kids campaign.

The event was addressed by former leading UK advertising executive Mr Dan Parker, who exposed a litany of cynical tactics used by marketers to manipulate children’s food choices.

Mr Parker, founder Living Loud UK, explained how junk food marketers gained deep psychological insights into young people, and went to extraordinary lengths to influence their food choices with potentially serious consequences for their long-term health.

“Junk food advertising has become a monster, manipulating young people’s emotions and their choices. Thanks to the explosion of digital marketing children on top of loopholes in broadcast regulations being ruthlessly exploited by junk brands, children are being bombarded daily in a way that it’s impossible to resist. But there should be no circumstances where junk food marketing directed at children is acceptable,” he said.

“ Junk food advertising has become a monster, manipulating young people’s emotions and their choices,"

Mr Dan Parker, Founder, Living Loud UK

The Irish Heart Foundation poll also revealed that just over one-third of respondents were aware of current regulations on the marketing of unhealthy food and drinks to children in Ireland.

Earlier this year the Department of Health launched a voluntary code on the marketing of food and beverages on non-broadcast media. Today however, almost nine months later, no guidelines for its implementation have been issued and its much-vaunted independent monitoring body has still not been established.

Mr Collins concluded: “This code is proving extremely useful in providing junk food brands with a mechanism to protect their profits, but to do little or nothing to protect children from unscrupulous marketing tactics. That’s not good enough. Safefood predicts that 85,000 of today’s children on this island will die prematurely due to overweight and obesity. We now have children as young as eight with high blood pressure and young people showing early signs of heart disease once only seen in middle-aged men.”

Dr Siobhan Donohue, a GP, mother of three and member of the Irish Heart Foundation’s parents’ campaign group said, “This survey represents a clear message that parents want an end to the relentless targeting of young people by junk brands and their marketers. Existing voluntary regulation is failing our children; a blanket ban on marketing directed at children is now required.”

The Irish Heart Foundation’s Stop Targeting Kids campaign is seeking public support through a petition which calls for action by the Government to regulate digital marketing aimed at Irish children and to close gaping loopholes in broadcast restrictions which mean that children still see over 1,000 junk food and drinks ads on television every year.

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