People in the South-East are being urged to back a drive to help tackle rising levels of childhood obesity, launched by Cancer Research UK today (Tuesday July 5).
Around one in five children in the region are overweight or obese when they start primary school. And by the time they leave, this increases to nearly one in three.
Cancer Research UK’s ‘Junk Free TV’ campaign, is urging the Government to remove junk food advertising from TV before the 9pm watershed to help protect children’s health and reduce their risk of developing cancer in later life.
The call follows a study by the charity revealing how youngsters’ food choices are influenced negatively by TV advertising.
Children, aged eight to 12 from six schools across the UK, were interviewed about two different junk food ads.
In discussion with researchers, they used words such as “tempting” and “addictive” to describe what they had seen, while one child said they wanted to “lick the screen”.
Many of the children said they liked watching funny and engaging adverts and could recall advertising theme tunes. They also said they saw adverts during family TV time, watching from “around about seven o’clock till eight or nine”.
The researchers believe that by using celebrities, bright colours, and funny voices, advertisements are able to attract children and influence their eating habits so that they eat more unhealthy food.
After watching a TV commercial for sweets, one girl said: “It makes you feel as if you’re happy and excited and it feels like you want to try it because the guy’s dancing in it because he’s eaten it and it tastes good.”
Jenny Makin, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the South East, said: “Children in the region are regularly seeing adverts for junk food that make them feel hungry and influence what they eat.
“For the children who took part in our research, in many cases the adverts had a direct effect with some more likely to “plead”, “nag” or “beg” their parents for things they had seen on TV, particularly new junk food products, flavours or eye catching pack designs.
“Recent polling shows that 76 per cent of people in the South-East back a ban on advertising junk food on TV before 9pm. So Cancer Research UK hopes people across the region will really get behind the ‘Junk Free TV’ campaign and help to remove this damaging influence from children’s lives”.
Alison Cox, director of prevention at Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s clear the restrictions already in place during children’s TV shows aren’t enough. Children are watching junk food adverts during family programmes where these restrictions don’t apply.
“The rise in childhood obesity is a huge concern and a growing epidemic. There must be no delay in taking action. We know that obese children are around five times more likely to be obese adults, and obese adults are more likely to develop cancer.
To support the ‘Junk Free TV’ campaign, please visit cruk.org/junkfreetv.
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