Health leaders: Ban junk food adverts on children’s TV

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Junk food advertising should be banned during all TV programmes aimed at children, health leaders have said.

The World Medical Association (WMA) raised concerns that children are spending more time than ever using screens, as it called for more to be done to tackle rising child obesity levels.

Almost 83,000 Scottish children were obese or overweight when they started primary school during the last ten years, while two out of three adults weigh more than a healthy amount.

The WMA, which is holding its annual assembly in Taiwan, said: “Advertisements increase children’s emotional response to food and exploit their trust. ”

Health campaigners have called for a curb on marketing of treats, which they claim are skewing children’s food choices towards unhealthy fare.

A study from Stirling University found that three quarters of the marketing seen by teenagers was for junk food.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s cancer prevention expert, based at Stirling University, said: “This is particularly relevant for Scotland which has higher rates of childhood obesity than other parts of the UK.

“We know that adverts for junk food are incredibly enticing to children; they influence the foods they choose and pester their parents to buy.

“This is why we need regulations to remove junk food advertising on TV before the 9pm watershed.”

The Scottish Government has called on Westminster to instigate the ban, as powers over broadcasting are reserved to Westminster.

Public health minister Aileen Campbell said: “We are looking at what further effective actions we can take within the powers available to us, including the use of multi-buy promotions, as well as examining a range of actions to improve diet, physical activity and education.”

A Department of Health spokesman said advertising restrictions are already some of the toughest in the world but further measures could be taken if the food industry did not take strong steps to make their food healthier.