Olly Wehring

Obese? Don't blame your television

By: Olly Wehring - 22 February 2007 15:57

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The drinks and food industries should not want for any more proof that they will be targeted by legislators on an increasing scale in the UK as the authorities seek solutions to unhealthy consumption habits.

Ofcom, the UK’s broadcasting regulator, is standing by its proposal to ban junk food ads during TV shows watched by under-16s, following the end of a consultation period of its plans.

Health campaigners had wanted a ban on junk food ads up to the 9pm watershed, but we have at least been spared those draconian measures. However, one has to wonder whether we are fooling ourselves if we think that extending the ban on advertising to teenagers will have any impact on child obesity levels. I hope I remember correctly when I believe that, by 15, I was old enough to make informed decisions on my soft drinks choices without the aid of a nanny state.

I am all for tackling the problem of obesity and there is no doubt that the role of advertising needs to be scrutinised. However, what concerns me is that advertising, whether it be of colas or Cuba Libres is being used in the UK as an easy scapegoat for the complex issues of obesity and alcohol harm.

Ofcom itself has noted TV advertising has a modest, direct effect on children’s food choices and is only one among many influences. This ban on advertising does nothing to address the root social causes of our increasingly unhealthy population.

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