By Zoë Keown
A NEW study shows a complete ban on junk food advertising could cut Scotland’s troubling childhood obesity levels by as much as 14 per-cent.
Scottish children were among six countries analysed by scientists from Australia, Sweden and the UK, with the conclusion that food advertising has a significant impact on the eating habits of six to 11 year-olds.
Junk food ads during children’s programmes were banned in 2007, but health campaigners say kids are still susceptible to seeing adverts during adult shows before the 9pm watershed and have called for a total ban.
Junk food adverts are connected to “devastating consequences” according to the study’s co-author, Dr Emmanuel Stamatakis, of University College London.
He said: “The bottom line is that there is a good chance that television advertising contributes significantly to childhood obesity.
“Even a seven to eight per-cent contribution is important given how big the problem is and how devastating the consequences will be for a child’s future health.”
The study’s findings come after the latest 2008/2009 NHS statistics class eight per-cent of Scotland’s primary one pupils as obese, and 3.9 per-cent as severely obese.
Dr Stamatakis claimed there was a “moral imperative” on Scottish minsters to consider the ban on all advertising aimed at children.
He said: “My view is that there is a need to ban not only all food advertising aimed at children but all advertising aimed at children in general.
“Advertising creates artificial needs and very often enhances inappropriate role models for children.
“We should not forget that children are particularly vulnerable to advertising, more than adults.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson responded by claiming they were committed to tackling childhood obesity.
They said: “While advertising is a reserved matter, we have already introduced a range of measures to improve children’s diets and encourage them to be more active.
“These include nutritional standards for school meals, the Active Schools programme and guidance on healthy food provision in nurseries and other early years’ establishments.
“Obesity is a huge threat to Scotland’s future and we are committed to tackling this.
“No country in the world has successfully addressed obesity – and we want Scotland to be the first.”
The study – among the first to show the quantified effect of advertising on childhood obesity – will be published in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition next month.
It also found a ban on television advertising could reduce obesity by up to 40 per-cent in the USA and that the potential reduction in Australia and Italy was up to 28 per-cent.