Ban on Junk Food Ads Reduces Consumption
Washington: Banning ads that promote junk foods among children is likely to cut down their consumption, says a study based on an experiment in a Canadian province.
Canada had proscribed fast food ads in its Quebec province between 1984 and 1992, resulting between 11-22 million fewer fast-food meals being eaten per year, according to Kathy Baylis, an economist from the University of Illinois in the US.
Advertising bans do work, but an outright ban covering the entire US media market would be the most effective policy tool for reducing fast-food consumption in children, adds Baylis, professor of agricultural and consumer economics at Illinois.
Baylis and co-author Tirtha Dhar from University of British Columbia found evidence that the ban reduced fast-food expenditures by 13 percent per week in French-speaking households in Quebec province in Canada.
It worked out to between 11-22 million fewer fast-food meals being eaten per year, or 2.2-4.4 billion fewer calories consumed by children, according to an Illinois statement.
"What we found is that advertising bans are most effective when children live in an isolated media market, and it's only because they're in an isolated media market that they're getting these effects," she said. "If any state on its own decided to do this, it would be problematic."
"Obviously, the internet has exploded since then, and computer games have also risen in popularity. So we don't know how well a television ban would work when children are spending an increasing amount of time online rather than watching TV," Baylis added.
"So it would be very hard to enforce an internet ban, and the only way to tackle it would be how they're doing it in Quebec, which is to prohibit advertising websites for junk food during cartoons, or even on product packaging in stores," she concludes.