Charity says teenagers “are being bombarded with junk food ads online” and calls for tougher regulations

A new campaign has been launched urging the government to take immediate steps to reduce the amount of ‘junk food’ advertising young people are exposed to online.

A new study has found that online channels with saturation levels of junk food marketing are the “biggest influencers” on Irish teenagers’ food choices.

Building on the study, the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) today launched a campaign aimed at tackling what it calls “the barrage of unhealthy food ads”. 57 percent of teens said online media is the most influential factor on their food preferences.

The Empathy Research study for the charity also found that 35 percent of teens claim they consume junk food after seeing such ads.

As part of its “Stop Targeting Kids” campaign and video, the IHF is calling for a “blanket ban” on online marketing of junk food, an increase in airtime from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and a ban on junk food advertising on state transit and buildings .

It is also demanding that the government fulfill its 2020 commitment to introduce a public health (obesity) law.

The charity’s advocacy director, Chris Macey, said children are “bombarded with junk food marketing” and research shows it “strongly influences their food choices”.

“It’s now at saturation levels, particularly with online marketing behind parents’ backs that is manipulating children’s food choices, thereby fueling an obesity crisis that threatens their health,” he said.

“In the meantime, the government stands by and allows for voluntary regulation of online marketing.”

The IHF-commissioned study of 500 parents and 500 teenagers found that most teenagers on social media (64 percent) are exposed to foods high in fat, sugar and salt; in particular on TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram, platforms that young people access on average 38 times a day.

The data also shows that Irish teenagers appear to be aware of the risks of consuming the unhealthy foods they see online, with over a third (35 per cent) being very concerned and 32 per cent saying they would like a ban on advertising junk food to under 18s -year-olds would support.

Meanwhile, 45 percent of parents are “very concerned” about their children’s junk food consumption and 49 percent say it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get their teens to eat healthily.

The IHF said research from the UK also found that under-16s are exposed to 15.1 billion ‘junk food’ ads online every year. The charity said Australian studies show that junk food brands target children with three ads every 10 minutes online, and in Canada teens are exposed to more than “100 ads a week”.

The IHF believes there is a similar trend here, and Chris Macey argued it would have been “impossible” to reduce the teenage smoking rate in Ireland from 41 per cent to 12 per cent if tobacco advertising had continued.

“One in 20 children of this generation will die prematurely from overweight and obesity. We’re seeing cases of children as young as six years old being presented to doctors for high blood pressure,” he added.

“If the government does not act now, future generations will suffer and children will continue to die prematurely… Amidst this crisis, the state continues to generate revenue from the advertising of junk food on public transport and benefit from the damage done to children’s health.”

The IHF is urging the public to support the Foundation’s campaign and sign an online petition calling for the introduction of the Public Health (Obesity) Act on irishheart.ie.

https://www.independent.ie/news/charity-says-teenagers-bombarded-by-junk-food-adverts-online-and-calls-for-stricter-regulations-42152858.html Charity says teenagers “are being bombarded with junk food ads online” and calls for tougher regulations

Fry Electronics Team

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