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New paper published on proposed ad bans and fighting obesity - Ad bans won’t do any good!


24 Nov 2020


Health & Consumers

London, UK - Today, the Consumer Choice Center published a policy note on consumer-friendly ways to tackle obesity in the UK. The paper comes in response to Downing Street’s plans to impose a total ban of all online advertising of foods high in fat, sugar and/or salt (HFSS) and analyses the effectiveness of the sugar tax and ad bans.

“The link between advertising and childhood obesity is too weak to justify ad bans mainly because of several factors at play. When we consider the effects of advertising, we need to also take into account genetics, energy expenditure, parental style, and availability of the advertised product,” said Maria Chaplia, European Affairs Associate at the Consumer Choice Center and the author of the note.

Some of the products covered by the suggested ban will be ready meals, pizzas, meat products, savoury snack products, sauces and dressings, prepared sandwiches, breakfast cereal, yoghurts, biscuits, and cakes among others. The scope of advertising restrictions is not limited to but includes commercial newsletters, in-app advertising, mid-roll video ads, and advertisements which are pushed electronically to devices.

“In short, the goal of marketing is to change consumer brand preferences, or, in other words, to make a Snickers chocolate bar seem like a better choice than a Cadbury without increasing demand for chocolate per se. The key issue, then, isn’t advertising but unhealthy food choices in the first place,” said Chaplia.

“The impact of similar bans hasn’t been decisive anywhere in the world mainly due to the failure to establish a direct link between food and lifestyle choices and consumption. However, what we do know - and what is mainly common sense - it is that parents are responsible for their kids’ health not only while they are underage but also in terms of showing the example of behaviour those can adopt later in life.

“We need an extensive societal dialogue on how to tackle obesity. We at the Consumer Choice Center believe that the best way forward is innovation and education, and we urge the UK government to move the needle away from interventionism,” concluded Chaplia.

You can read the policy note here



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