Health advocates are applauding Sen. Nancy Greene Raine’s legislative initiative to restrict manipulative food and beverage advertising aimed at children.
Representatives of the Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Coalition québécoise sur la problématique du poids, joined Greene Raine at a press conference Wednesday to publicly explain the bill and its significance.
Greene Raine feels the law could help cut down childhood obesity in Canada. Canada’s childhood obesity rate has tripled since 1980, according to the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
“Everyone understands how impressionable children are," she said. "When food and beverage companies aim their TV and online advertising messages directly at this young audience, it makes it hard for parents to do the right thing. We need to protect our children – it’s the responsible thing to do.”
She introduced An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act in the Senate on Tuesday. Bill S-228, also known as the Child Health Protection Act, would prohibit marketing of food and beverages to kids under the age of 13 years.
Overweight children have an increased risk of serious health problems later in life, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, joint problems, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Obesity also affects children’s self-esteem and mental health.
As a former Olympic skier, the senator has been a lifelong advocate of physical fitness and healthy living.
Not only does obesity adversely affect the well-being of individual children it also takes a heavy toll on Canadian society due to increased health-care costs to treat obesity-related diseases.
The Child Health Protection Act would change the Food and Drugs Act’s labelling, packaging and advertising section, making it illegal to label, package or advertise any food or beverage “in a manner that is directed primarily at children.”
Greene Raine’s bill builds on recent work by the World Health Organization and the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology which both recommended earlier in 2016 that combating childhood obesity should include a ban on marketing to children.
"We applaud Sen. Greene Raine for introducing legislation to prohibit food and beverage marketing to children," said Mary Lewis of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. "Protecting the health of our children and youth is urgent and we encourage the government to now move quickly to get regulations in place."
"Industry self-regulation is a failure," said Dr. Tom Warshawski, chairman of the Childhood Obesity Foundation. "Legislation will protect kids, support parents as they teach their children healthy habits, and ensure that all companies are playing by the same rules. We commend Senator Greene Raine for her leadership and commitment to children's health."
Currently, the maximum penalty for violating the Food and Drugs Act’s food-related provisions is a fine of $50,000 or six months for summary conviction or a fine of $250,000 or a three-year jail sentence for conviction by indictment. The Child Health Protection Act does not propose changes to penalties.