Ban junk food advertising near schools and nurseries

 The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils – with responsibility for public health – says the move would reduce children’s exposure to unhealthy food and drinks high in salt, fat and sugar, said to be a key driver behind child obesity.

Research shows that marketing and advertising can be a big influence on young people’s choice of food and drink.

The call comes ahead of the LGA’s conference today (Thursday, 17 March) on childhood obesity, while the Committee of Advertising Practice is also set to launch a public consultation on whether to ban junk food advertising to children online, in the press, on billboards and poster sites.

If the Government granted councils these powers, they would have the freedom to control the advertising of junk food and sugary drinks if they felt it was an issue that needed tackling in their area.

A recent study found that 75 per cent of food and drink marketing seen by young people was for junk food, with many buying more than one food or drink item in response.

Giving powers to town halls would make it much easier to control food and drink advertising near schools, if it was an option they wished to pursue.

Under the current system, councils have to apply to the Secretary of State, followed by a period of consultation before a decision is reached.

Three and a half million children are obese – one in five 10 and 11-year-olds and one in 10 four and five-year-olds – according to latest figures.


Obesity in children can lead to a higher risk of major health problems such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Cllr Richard Kemp, Deputy Chair of the LGA Community Wellbeing Board, who is speaking at the conference, said.

“We urgently need to take action to tackle child obesity, and giving councils powers to control marketing of junk food, which is one of the major causes of this epidemic, will help us to tackle the issue.

“We are not saying every council should be using these powers, but it gives local authorities the option of working with parents and schools to ban junk food advertising near schools, nurseries and children centres, if they feel it can make a difference and improve children’s health in their town or city.

“We need to make changes to our environment if we are to fight obesity, and although this won’t solve the obesity crisis by itself, being able to limit children’s exposure to unhealthy food products would be an important step forward.

“It is not right when we are trying to educate children around the importance of maintaining a healthy diet, that at the same time they are subjected to a bombardment of junk food advertising.”

Case study

Blackpool Council is the first in the country to sign up to a Local Authority Declaration on Healthy Weight, which includes pledging to protect children from inappropriate marketing by the food and drink industry.

Obesity rates are higher than the national average with a quarter of reception-age school children overweight – 2,600 pupils – compared to a fifth nationally, while more than a third of 11-year-olds in the town are obese or overweight.

The declaration on healthy weight is a joint strategy with other councils in the North West to tackle obesity, which is calling for stronger national controls on junk food marketing.

1. Data from the National Child Measurement Programme, carried out in schools, shows one in five 10 and 11-year-olds are obese and one in 10 four and five-year-olds are obese. If you include those who are overweight, the rates rise to a third and a fifth respectively.

2. A recent study by the University of Stirling on how children are influenced by junk food marketing, including outdoor adverts, found three quarters of all food and drink marketing seen by 11 to 18-year-olds was for unhealthy food. Almost two thirds of the 2,285 children questioned recalled one or more food or drink promotion with nearly half buying more than one or more item of food or drink in response.

3. The World Health Organization (WHO) regards childhood obesity as one of the most serious global public health challenges for the 21st century. Obese children and adolescents are at an increased risk of developing various health problems, and are also more likely to become obese adults.                                                                        

4. Health problems associated with being overweight or obese cost the NHS more than £5 billion every year.                                                                           

5. The NHS is spending over £1.5 million an hour on diabetes

6. Guide to outdoor advertisements and signs

7. Restrictions on the display of advertisements


8. Public Health England’s evidence to Commons Select Committee on restrictions on advertising to children

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