A letter from AA Chief Executive, Stephen Woodford appeared in The Times today (July 13) outlining our position on a 9pm watershed ban on the advertising of high fat, salt and sugar food and drink, highlighting the already strong rules in this area, and why we believe such a ban would be ineffective in the drive against obesity:
Sir, In response to the letter calling for a ban on junk food adverts before the watershed (July 11), it is worth noting that UK advertising rules on high fat, salt, sugar (HFSS) food and drink are already among the strictest in the world and restrict advertising of such products in and around TV programmes commissioned for, or likely to appeal to, children. Rules for all other media, including online, restrict HFSS ads where under-16s make up more than 25 per cent of the audience. These rules are comprehensive, proportionate and evidence-based. Enforcement by the Advertising Standards Authority is rigorous, effective and well respected. Over the past decade these rules have reduced children’s exposure to HFSS advertising by about 70 per cent, yet obesity levels have continued to rise. The government’s latest impact assessment showed that a 9pm watershed ban on HFSS advertising would at best only remove about 1.7 calories a day from a child’s diet. This is the equivalent of half a Smartie, a trivial impact at a very large cost to industry and jobs. As the country recovers from the Covid-19 crisis, we need to make effective choices and the government’s own evidence shows that a 9pm watershed is not one of these.
CEO, Advertising Association