Oral health campaigners have welcomed new regulations from the Committee of Advertising Practice clamping down on junk food advertising aimed at children, hailing it as a significant step forward in improving the oral health of younger generations; but hope for more progress in the future.
The rules, which came into effect on Saturday [1 July 2017] across the United Kingdom, ban the advertising of high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) food or drink products in traditional media, online media and other sites where children make up over 25% of the audience.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, a charity working to improve oral health, welcomes the new regulations and hopes the rules will be strongly enforced.
Dr Carter said: "Seeing these changes being strictly adhered to has the potential to provide a massive boost to the state of oral health in the UK with children less likely to ask for products high in sugar which are damaging to their oral health.
"In the last two years alone, more than 34,000 rotten teeth have been removed from young children under general anaesthetic in the UK, this is absolutely scandalous, particularly given that this is entirely avoidable.
"Getting children into a good oral health routine as soon as possible will give them a head start when it comes to looking after their teeth for the rest of their lives.
The new regulations will hopefully reinforce the need for children to cut down on how often they have sugary foods and drinks.
"Brushing their teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day with a fluoride toothpaste and visiting your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend, are also crucial components of a good oral health routine."
Members of the public have been encouraged to alert authorities to examples of junk food advertising that could appeal to children and are in violation of the new rules.
To help support the introduction of the new rules, ‘Operation Eagle Eye' has been launched by food and farming charity Sustain through their Children's Food Campaign (CFC), encouraging people to submit complaints where appropriate if they feel food and soft drink companies are breaking regulations in the way they promote their products.
The Oral Health Foundation is continuing to campaign and is hoping to see similar changes brought to other platforms, such as TV, that will not be affected by these new regulations.
Dr Carter adds: "These measures should provide a lot of support for parents across the country who are trying their best to get their children into positive oral health routines which will benefit them for years to come.
"Young children in the UK have more access to the internet than ever before, with one in three British 15-year-olds classed as 'extreme internet users' who spend at least six hours a day online1. They are therefore subject to vast amounts of advertising and glorification of products that may not have their best interests at heart.
"There is no doubt that more can be done to safeguard the wellbeing of the children in this country but this is very much a step in the right direction."
1. Education Policy Institute. (2017) ‘Social Media and Children's Mental Health: A Review Of The Evidence' Available at https://epi.org.uk/report/social-media-and-childrens-mental-health-a-review-of-the-evidence/ [Accessed on 30/06/17].