April 9th, 2008

Council To Consider Junk Food Ad Ban For Kids

Metroland Durham Region Media Group (Canada)

In the battle of the bulge from toddler to teenager more and more of our youth are losing the waistline wars.

Faced with statistics that show childhood obesity has become an epidemic, Durham council will consider next week whether to endorse a ban on junk food advertising to children under 13.

The province of Quebec already prohibits all advertising directed at children. Now, perhaps, itís time for Ontario to take a long look at preventing the purveyors of junk food from targeting youthful consumers and drawing them into a life of unhealthy choices.

Thereís plenty of reason to be concerned. Statistics Canada shows that between 1981 and 1996, the prevalence of obesity jumped from five per cent to 16.6 per cent for boys and from five per cent to 14.6 per cent for girls. During the same period the amount of overweight boys climbed from 15 per cent to 35.4 per cent; for girls it jumped from 15 per cent to 29.2 per cent. The numbers are even higher now and the trend is to more and heavier young people.

Obesity brings a host of health problems that can become chronic and lifelong if not treated. Illnesses like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke can develop from obesity. In addition to the human toll these diseases exact they also act as a drain on our public health care system since obesity treatments run to billions of dollars a year across Canada. And obesity and the health problems that come with it also hurt our overall productivity.

In attempting to control childhood obesity, a multi-dimensional approach is needed combining home, school and society. Children need to be encouraged to become more active at school and at home. Adults need to make better food-buying and preparation choices and provide a good example for kids to follow. And just as governments did with a ban on advertising for cigarette smoking, perhaps a prohibition on junk food ads for youngsters should follow.

Itís a concept that, at the very least, requires serious consideration.


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