Adverts for junk food are to be banned on websites and online videos aimed at children from tomorrow, in a major shake-up of advertising regulations.
The new rules will also mean that cinemas will no longer be able to advertise foods that are high in salt, sugar or fat during screenings aimed at youngsters, while magazines, newspapers and even posters for children’s products will also come under the new rules.
The Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP), said that the move has come in response to changing media habits among young people, with research showing that youngsters aged five to 15 are spending about 15 hours each week online – overtaking time spent watching television.
They also respond to wider concerns in society about the public health challenges surrounding childhood obesity and what part the advertising industry can play in helping to change children’s relationship with less healthy foods.
Adverts for unhealthy products have been banned on children’s TV for the past ten years.
James Best, chairman of CAP, said: “The tougher new advertising food rules are a significant and positive change designed to help protect the health and wellbeing of children. These measures demonstrate the advertising industry’s continuing commitment to putting the protection of children at the heart of its work.
“The new rules will alter the nature and balance of food advertising seen by children and play a meaningful part in helping change their relationship with less healthy foods.”
The tougher rules will also apply to any media where children make up more than 25 per cent of the audience, even if the content is not aimed specifically at children.
If the content is targeted at the under-12s, adverts for such products will not be allowed to use promotions, licensed characters and celebrities popular with children.
However, the regulator said that advertisers may now use those techniques to better promote healthier options.
Ian Wright, director general of manufacturers’ body the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said the industry welcomed the new rules.
He said: “Two years ago, FDF announced its backing for major changes to the way food and drink is advertised, based on our belief that non-broadcasting advertising rules should be in line with the strict rules already in place for TV.
“As young people move away from traditional media towards new and social media, we feel it’s important that ad rules keep up with this change.”
The Advertising Standards Authority, which regulates all media in the UK, is to administer the new rules.