Should junk food ads targeting kids be banned? Canadian doctors call for action

·Contributing Writer

Quick show of hands: How many of you think there is a cause-and-effect relationship between a child's exposure to junk food advertisements and the amount of junk food they actually consume?

For those you who answered "yes," you'll be happy to know that a slew of medical organizations put forward a policy statement on Thursday to food companies requesting they immediately stop marketing foods high in fats, added sugars or sodium to children under 13, CBC reports.

"Right now, we have a voluntary ban on marketing of unhealthy foods to children from the food industry," lead campaigner and hypertension specialist Dr. Norm Campbell tells CBC. "The industries that have signed on to that are the worst offenders."

Some of the organizations backing the policy statement include Canadian Medical Association, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Hypertension Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

Currently, food companies are not required by law, with the exception of Quebec law, to restrict unhealthy food and beverage advertising to children.

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The 1980 Quebec Consumer Protection Act banned all advertising directed at children younger than 13 in that province, and since that time fast food expenditure in the province dropped by 13 per cent, Quebecor Media reports.

In addition to putting pressure on food companies, Campbell and company accuse the federal, provincial and territorial government of inaction.

"They had this on their radar and yet absolutely nothing is done, and so this is really a call for action that they do what we already know is going to be effective," he says.

"Right now one in three Canadian children are overweight or obese," he tells CTV.

If the policy is enacted, the restrictions would apply to TV, internet, radio, magazines, mobile phones, video and adver-games, brand mascots, product placement, cross-promotions, school or event sponsorships and viral marketing.

Also see: Healthiest choices when you're craving junk food

The policy statement uses 2010 health recommendations from the World Health Organization.

In 2011, American doctors put forward a similar policy statement calling for a ban on junk food TV ads targeting children. That policy statement was backed by 65,000 physicians.

And more recently in the battle against junk food advertising, Coca-Cola agreed not to advertise to audiences where children under 12 make up more than 35 per cent of the market. The company did not release a deadline for this pledge.

What are your thoughts on food companies advertising to kids? Do the ads actually cause kids to eat more junk food? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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