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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 June, 2004, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Doctors demand child food ad ban
Many children eat an unhealthy diet
Doctors have called for a ban on all food advertising aimed at children under 12.

The British Medical Associaton annual conference in Llandudno heard the measure was needed to tackle soaring rates of obesity.

The conference heard of an obese 11-year-old unable to walk even short distances without becoming breathless.

Obesity is linked to a raft of health problems including diabetes, cancer and heart diseaase.

Obese child

Young children are being bombarded with advertisements for food that is damaging their health.
Dr Andrew Rowland
Dr Andrew Rowland, a paediatrician from St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, told the conference he had recently seen an 11-year-old patient weighing 85kg (13 stone five pounds).

"This boy was considerably shorter than me and 20kg heavier.

"That may not sound a huge amount but this child could not walk from the waiting room to the consultation room without being short of breath.

"He could not do physical education at school."

Dr Rowland said food advertising played a key role in promotiong the poor diets that fuelled the obesity problem.

"Young children are being bombarded with advertisements for food that is damaging their health.

"They may not at this stage have developed the reasoning capabilities to recognise the adverse effects this food is having on their health."

Pester power

Johann Malawana, a medical student from Essex, told the conference that the food industry spent 300m in 1999 on promoting unhealthy food - often employing celebrities to raise the profile of their products.

How good do I look next to Gary Lineker telling them to eat crisps?
Keith Brent
He said: "We would not stand for tobacco companies advertising to our children as they do in the Third World, why should we stand for it on the advertising of junk food?

"Adults can make informed decisions and understand the consequences of their choices. But why promote the pester power advertising techniques of the food industry?"

Dr Peter Tiplady, a public health doctor from Cumbria, said that there was evidence that up to 99% all food advertising during children's TV was for fatty or sugary foods.

However, Dr Norman Vetter, from Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan, said a ban would be unworkable.

He said: "How are we going to stop the under-12s? They are up at all times of day and night."

Keith Brent, a paediatrician from Northampton General Hospital, said he regularly saw overweight children at his clinic, but there was no guarantee that they - or their parents - would listen to his advice.

He said: "How good do I look next to Gary Lineker telling them to eat crisps?"

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