A report by Cancer Research UK has found junk food advertising makes kids hungry, with children describing junk food adverts as ‘tempting’ and ‘addictive’, and say they could ‘lick the screen’.
The study was conducted by Cancer Research UK’s Policy Research Centre for Cancer Prevention and NatCen, Britain’s leading independent social research institute. Researchers talked to 137 children, aged 8 to 12, in 25 small focus groups from six primary schools across England and Scotland. Each group was shown two TV adverts for junk food, followed by a discussion.
The researchers argue that by using celebrities, bright colours, and funny voices, fast food advertisements are able to attract children and influence their eating habits. Many of the children said they liked watching funny and engaging adverts and could recall advertising theme tunes.
The report has released a few quotes from the discussion:
- A girl in primary 5, from North Lanarkshire, said: “It makes you feel as if you’re happy and excited and it feels like you want to try it because the guy’s dancing in it because he’s eaten it and it tastes good”.
- A boy in year 6, from Northamptonshire, said: “You might be eating a piece of fruit, you might see the advert, and you might just throw it in the bin and ask your mum for money and leg it to the shop”.
- A girl in primary 5, from Edinburgh, said: “I asked my mum if I could have it and she said no and I was annoyed and I kept trying and she finally said yes and I got to go to the shops to get it”.
Dr Jyotsna Vohra, head of the Policy Research Centre for Cancer Prevention at Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s worrying to hear that children associate junk food with having a better time and it’s clear from the discussions that advertising can influence how they eat.
“Most kids said that adverts made them feel hungry and in many cases it had a direct effect, with some children more likely to ‘plead’, ‘nag’ or ‘beg’ their parents after seeing an advert.”
Alison Cox, director of prevention at Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s clear the restrictions already in place during children’s TV shows aren’t enough. Children are watching junk food adverts during family programmes where these restrictions don’t apply.”
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