High-sugar snacks can be potentially as dangerous as smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. So why advertise them?
If tobacco advertisements were banned over health concerns, research shows TV ads of high-sugar foods have the same effect in influencing children's choices. Aren't we hazarding our kids' health?
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Remember the last time you saw an advertisement for a cigarette or whisky on TV?
Probably not. Because India banned the advertising of tobacco and liquor products in 1995, owing to the adverse effects reported on a person’s health.
If that health is such a big concern, then TV commercials for high-sugar cereals need to be examined on priority.
In a report by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, children are more likely to demand specific sugary cereals for breakfast when they see television ads for these products. This exposure to TV ads influences their food intake, which increases their health risks for obesity as well as cancers, warns the report.
TV ads for sugary cereals influence kids' breakfast cravings, says research. (Photo: AP)
It has been established in earlier research that the advertising aimed directly at kids has long been linked to the risk that children will make unhealthy food choices and press their parents to buy them more processed, more sugary and more calorie-loaded foods at the store.
The research team from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, USA, added that children's eating habits develop during preschool years, and children who are overweight by the age of five are likely to remain overweight into adolescence and adulthood.
The adoption of poor eating habits — diets of low quality, too few fruits and vegetables and too much sugar, salt and fat — can lead to obesity, a known risk factor for 13 types of cancer, they noted.
Cigarette and alcohol advertising was banned for similar health concerns. However, advertisements for high-sugar snacks are far more dangerous — as tobacco and alcohol can be sold to people only above a certain age.
Snacks, on the other hand, have no such barriers.
"One factor believed to contribute to children's poor quality diets is the marketing of nutritionally-poor foods directly to children. Brands specifically target children in their advertising knowing that children will ask their parents for those products," affirms lead author Jennifer Emond of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
"There are policy-level actions that could be implemented to reduce children's exposure to food marketing and to improve the quality of the foods marketed to kids. And we as parents have the choice to switch to ad-free TV for our children and for ourselves," Emond noted.
It is imperative that along with teaching our future generations the ills of smoking and drinking, we instill, promote and support quality diets that are important to maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic disease, including many cancers.
And there, surrogate advertising is not the answer.