On January 17th, Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Government, Vaughan Gething AM launched Healthy weight, healthy Wales, a consultation that set out Wales’ strategy to prevent and reduce obesity levels across the country. According to Welsh Government, in Wales, twenty seven percent of 4-5 year olds and sixty percent of adults are overweight. The development is a result of the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017 and outlines several proposals for consultation with Welsh business and communities.
The consultation runs across 4 key themes, namely:
- Leadership and Enabling Change – strengthening national and local leadership to deliver change through Local Health Boards, Local Authorities, their partners and with communities themselves.
- Healthy Environments – creating an environment that helps everyone to make healthier food choices and creating opportunities in daily life for people to be active. Including to legislate on price promotions, calorie labelling on foods eaten out of the home, banning the sale of energy drinks to children and to bring together a range of programmes to develop active environments across communities.
- Healthy Settings – ensuring our education, work and leisure facilities promote and provide opportunities for people in Wales to access healthy meals, snacks and drinks and be physically active. Including strengthening support for early years and schools settings to enable healthy eating and daily physical activity opportunities.
- Healthy People – providing the opportunities and inspiring people and communities to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Including support for parents and families, focussing on the crucial first 1000 days and early years and to review delivery of the All Wales Obesity Pathway.
Of relevance to the advertising industry, the consultation paper set out that:
“The food industry can also support us in making healthier choices through addressing the current imbalance in advertising and promotion. The UK food industry spent over £250 million promoting unhealthy foods in retail settings in 2014, clearly indicating that they see this as a highly effective marketing technique. We also know that on-line advertising provides specific challenges and is increasingly where children and young people are spending more of their time compared to television. Much of the evidence focuses on children and demonstrates a clear link between food and drink adverts, children’s food choices and how much they eat.”
“The UK Government has committed to consult on TV and online advertising to children of products high in fat, sugar and salt. We wish to support a 9pm watershed, and to go further, such as banning the use of brand generated and licensed character/celebrity endorsement of products across all media. We also want to utilise our powers in Wales by limiting the use of advertising and promotion of unhealthy food in public places. This includes, but is not limited to, train and bus stations/bus stops/on buses and at sporting and other events.”
Welsh Government conceded that several of the areas outlined in the consultation document are non-devolved (in particular advertising regulation), but that it is willing to work towards a UK-wide advertising watershed for HFSS food and drink products.
When we look at advertising in the UK, the industry has a longstanding reputation for responsibility when it comes to protecting children from HFSS advertising. The rules the industry operates under are among the strictest in the world and based on evidence. In 2017, the industry acted to ensure the same tough rules apply in both broadcast and non-broadcast media, including online, on social media or on the street.
There is very little evidence that further advertising restrictions would lead to a reduction in childhood obesity rates. Indeed, over the past decade there has been a significant reduction in children’s exposure to HFSS adverts, while obesity rates have remained stable. A recent comprehensive analysis of children’s exposure to HFSS advertising on TV and online, conducted by the Advertising Association, further shows exposure to be at a record low.
Childhood obesity rates vary across the UK, and we believe this pressing public health crisis requires targeted interventions – focused where the problem is greatest – rather than nationwide measures.
The Healthy weight: Healthy Wales consultation is open until April 12th 2019.
The Advertising Association will respond to this consultation on behalf of the industry.
Advertising Association food advertising policy contact: David Henderson, Public Affairs Manager – David.Henderson@adassoc.org.uk