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Junk Food Ads For Children Banned

Child holding an ice cream or lolly like a twister

The Committee on Advertising Practice, or CAP, is to bring in new rules for advertisers when it comes to children.

Online adverts for food and drinks which are deemed to be unhealthy will be banned from targeting children under 16.

Child Targets Removed

The ban will come into effect on the internet, as well as any other form of media where those under the age of 16 make up a quarter of the audience. This means that any food or drink high in fat, salt, or sugar most only aim advertising at adult audiences.

Kid in sun hat eating a hot dog

Critics are already saying that the rules will not go far enough, however. They feel that there are too many children watching TV shows and videos on the internet which are not classified as material for children. They will still be exposed to the advertising as the new regulations will not cover those outlets.

The advertisers’ body claims that there will be a major reduction in junk food ads which are seen by children. Some of the platforms which will be covered include YouTube, as well as gaming websites aimed at children.

New rules will also bring the internet, social media, cinema advertising, and billboards in line with existing rules which have covered television programmes for children since 2007. Those with sales and marketing jobs will certainly need to ensure compliance within their campaigns for the future.

New Initiatives for New Trends

The CAP’s new rules were triggered by increasing trends for children aged 5 to 15 to spend more time online than they do watching television. They are now likely to spend around 15 hours online each week.

The World Health Organisation is also concerned about these new trends. They say that governments need to start doing more to protect children who are being target by junk food adverts on apps, social networks, and vlogs.

The CAP says that they have "the protection of children at the heart of its work", and that this new change reflects that – even if it might not make as much of an impact as hoped.

The recent figures on child obesity in the UK have been alarming, to say the least. A third of UK children are now obese or overweight by the time that they leave primary school.

Professor Neena Modi, who serves as the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, wants more to be done. She says, "Surely it is time for government to strengthen rules around all advertising, and in particular ban the advertising of foods high in salt, sugar and fat on television before the 21:00 watershed."

More Action Required

Many protestors and critics are concerned that more needs to be done – and fast. There are calls for an independent regulator to ensure that the new rules are observed.

Malcolm Clark of the Children’s Food Campaign feels that there are still too many loopholes in the rules. He said: "Just as many of the TV programmes most watched by children aren't covered by the rules, so it looks like many of the most popular social media sites won't be either; neither will billboards near schools, or product packaging itself."

It’s not clear, he claims, which ads will be banned under the new rules. After all, it is necessary to know the percentage of the audience which are children before enforcing the ban.

He added: "Ultimately, the new rules are only as good as the body which enforces them."

The new rules are due to come into effect on the 1st of July 2017.