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New Zealand Specific Healthcare Question 9
Should there be restrictions on junk food advertising to children, why/why not and what would you implement?
Restrictions on the freedom to advertise junk food is an infringement on public autonomy and may lead to suggestions that New Zealand is operating in a “Nanny State” mentality. However, the damage to children’s health and the toll it takes on the healthcare system does outweigh this. Heavy restrictions should be placed on junk food advertising to children. Advertising is a key driving force in consumption and children do not possess the same levels of restraint/ self regulation as adults. Children respond much more readily to visual advertising and lack the ability to ignore the ‘hard sell’ that many marketing campaigns use. New Zealand is currently the 3rd most obese country in the OECD, with these rates largely attributed to poor diet. Therefore immediate action needs to be taken to address poor diet.
Restrictions could be implemented at many different levels. Firstly, there should be no junk food advertising in and around schools. In addition to this, state schools should be restricted in what they can and cannot sell in their canteens.
Junk food should also not be advertised during hours when children are most likely to watch TV, for example afterschool.
Further restrictions could be placed on fastfood companies which sponsor public events in New Zealand such as KFC’s sponsorship of Super rugby. Children who see their sporting heroes endorsing junk foods are more likely to regularly consume these foods.
Current junk food items should also contain clear health warnings, in a similar but more child-friendly way that cigarettes do. This would not only alert parents, but possibly encourage children to become more aware of what they are eating with age.