Restricting junk food advertising

A campaign to tackle childhood obesity

An infographic showing how junk food tv adverts result in children's "pester power"

Adverts work - that's why the food industry spends so much money on them. The more junk food ads young people see on TV, the more they eat – and that could amount to over 500 extra snacks throughout the year!

There is no silver bullet to reduce obesity, but there is overwhelming evidence that junk food marketing impacts children’s eating habits. Putting a stop to junk food ads on TV before 9pm, and similar restrictions online, can help protect future generations by protecting kids today.

Join our campaign for junk free TV. Email your MP, find out if they agree.

Why campaign on childhood obesity?

Being overweight or obese is the biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK after smoking. In fact, obesity is linked to 13 different types of cancer.

Over one in five children in England are overweight or obese before they start primary school. By the time they leave, this increases to over one in three. Acting early is critical - obese children are more likely to grow into obese adults, and obese adults are more likely to develop cancer.

The UK Government must take action to tackle junk food marketing and price promotions on items high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS). A strong childhood obesity plan will give children a better chance to eat healthily, stay a healthy weight and avoid cancer in later life.

In particular, we want the UK Government to:

  • update current rules to better reflect what children watch on TV by extending existing regulations to restrict junk food ads before the 9pm watershed.
  • include on-demand and online viewing within the same rules – to make sure young people are protected however they watch programmes.
  • introduce legislation to restrict multi-buy price promotions on HFSS foods - e.g. ‘buy one, get one free’, ‘three for the price of two’, and ‘X for £Y’ offers.

The Government have set out a bold ambition to halve childhood obesity by 2030 in its newly updated plan. It says it will do this in many ways, most importantly through tackling how junk food is marketed at children and families.

Proposed measures include a potential ban on junk food adverts before the 9pm watershed with similar protections online and a ban on promotions for foods high in fat, salt or sugar in shops.

We’ve been campaigning on this for a long time across the UK - this shows that the Government has been listening.

The Government will gather opinions from the public, health bodies, food and drinks and advertising industries, on what the ban should look like before the end of the year. 

We know there will be a big push back from industry, but the evidence is strong. Adverts for junk food on TV make a difference to the foods children prefer and choose to buy (or pester their parents into buying) – often without them even realising it. Junk food adverts are already banned on kids’ TV but not on mainstream family viewing. Restricting these adverts on TV won’t solve the obesity problem but not allowing them to be shown before 9pm can only help.

We need to keep up the pressure to make sure the plan isn't watered down or forgotten. Sign up to be a Cancer Research UK e-campaigner today to make sure new campaign actions and updates are delivered straight to your inbox.

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We congratulate the Government on putting forward this bold plan, demonstrating its commitment to address one of the most significant health challenges of our time. Once implemented following the consultation, the proposed restrictions on junk food advertising will make an enormous impact on childhood obesity rates – Sir Harpal Kumar, former Cancer Research UK CEO

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