By Hugh Finlay
BBC reports that it is election time in the United Kingdom, and the Labour Party, as part of its election campaign, is proposing that junk food ads should be banned on TV. Already there is a ban on junk food ads during the early evening hours, when children's programs are on, making the UK's rules on junk food advertising the toughest in the world. The Labour Party's plans would make these rules even tougher by taking the junk food advertising ban up to 9 pm, thus greatly reducing children's exposure to these ads.
The Labour Party's measures have been prompted by growing public concern at the rising obesity rate among children in the country. Not only do junk food ads encourage children to eat the particular brand of junk food, but they encourage children to eat all such products. Also, junk food companies use celebrities that are popular with children, to advertise their food products.
As Labour's health spokesman, Jonathon Ashworth put it: "We are asking people to think about the impact and asking the advertising industry to recognize by putting their messages into things like Britain's Got Talent all the time, it is having an effect on children saying they want to eat and drink this stuff."
At the moment the British national health service, (which is funded by the taxpayers), has to spend $9 billion on obesity. Another $15 billion is spent by the health service in trying to combat diabetes. The Labour Party has pointed out that this ad ban would help to reduce the financial cost of obesity to the government. Labour's health spokesman, Jonathon Ashworth, said: "This initiative is good for children but it is also good for the taxpayer." He also said the Labour party would compare the health of Britain's children with children in other countries, as part of its "ambition to make Britain's children the healthiest in the world".
The Labour Party is obviously hoping to capitalize on the public concern for childhood obesity, to gain votes in the election against the ruling conservative Party, whose measures against junk food ads on TV, would be less radical. Polls indicate that Labour's plans would meet with widespread support. A British Heart Foundation survey showed that almost 70% of parents were in favor of Labour's proposal, and a Which? magazine survey indicated that almost 80% of parents would be in favor of Labour's proposal. Estimates indicate that the country would save $2 billion a year in health care costs if Labour's plans were put into effect.
Well over half a billion dollars a year is spent on advertising food products in the UK. But TV advertising is not the only way that junk food is advertised to children. It is advertised through the internet, text messaging, and packaging. This area of advertising is still unregulated by the government, allowing a major loophole in the advertising restrictions. Nevertheless the UK is making major strides in the direction of dealing with advertising of junk food products.