With only days to go before the end of the Senate activities, a pan-Canadian group of organizations and health professionals urges Senators to prioritize a vote on Bill S-228, to protect children’s health, before it dies on the Order Paper. Collectively, these organizations and the thousands of health and public health professionals they represent are asking Senators to call the vote this week before time runs out.
“We are asking the Senate to take position on Bill S-228, which aims to ban advertising of foods high in fat, salt or sugar targeting children under 13, to contribute to create a healthier environnement. Near the Senate adjournment, we collectively call for a final effort to complete the work of Bill S-228, which the Senate had already adopted in 2017 before the amendments”, says Corinne Voyer, Director of the Quebec Coalition on Weight-Related Problems.
“Some fear that the food industry and the media companies will lose profit if they are banned from advertising products of low nutritional value directly to children. As a parent and as a society, we should ask ourselves why are we allowing industries to become richer by taking advantage of the cognitive and emotional vulnerability of children. With Bill S-228, rather than exploiting the credulity of the under-13s, the industry will simply have to target its ads to adults. As for the youth media, the Quebec experience, which banned children's advertising on television nearly 40 years ago, shows that their survival has not been threatened by this change”, adds Corinne Voyer of the Weight Coalition.
“Protecting the health of our children should not take second place to corporate profits or partisan politics,” said Ian Culbert, Executive Director of the Canadian Public Health Association. “Bill S-228 will not hurt our farmers or make their products less desireable on international markets; it will stop the food industry from bombarding young children with advertising for highly-processed foods high in fat, salt or sugar.”
The Honorable Nancy Greene Raine, who introduced the bill in 2016, was keen to participate in this final call to vote. “When Bill S-228 passed in the House of Common with two good amendments, I never thought it would not be quickly agreed to by the Senate. Having already been studied extensively, I hope it can be swiftly passed. The health of the next generation of children is at stake”, said Mrs Greene Raine. The Honorable senators, Chantal Petitclerc and Tony Dean also participated to this mobilization to demonstrate their support for this request.
“The health of Canadian children is threatened. One in three is obese or overweight. Their risk factors for high blood pressure, diabetes, premature heart disease and stroke are at epidemic levels. Many experts predict that today’s kids may be the first generation to have poorer health and shorter lifespans than their parents. We cannot afford to let Bill S-228 die if we are truly committed to giving our children the best possible start for a long and healthy life”, adds Senator Chatal Petitclerc.
By restricting the advertisement of unhealthy foods targeting children and thus reducing the exposure of children under 13 to this influence, Bill S-228 would have a positive public health impact. Junk food marketing contributes to the development of many diet-related chronic diseases, which cost the Canadian health-care system more than $27 billion a year. Marketing techniques aimed at children can be particularly harmful due to their cognitive development. They have difficulty understanding and discerning the intentions of advertisers which makes them a vulnerable target and more likely to be influenced. Prohibiting advertising to children is a key action of a plan to reduce obesity and noncommunicable food-related diseases.
“Most of the food and beverages marketed directly to children are unhealthy. Advertising is sophisticated, interactive and pervasive and significantly influences kids’ eating behaviours and health. Rates of illness like type 2 diabetes are increasing in the Canadian population and, alarmingly, people are being diagnosed at younger ages. Limiting exposure to ads on television, radio, the internet and in print can go a long way to helping change children’s food choices for the better and reducing their risk of developing disease. If Canada enacts this legislation, we will join other countries who have already made the wise decision to restrict marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children. It’s time to pass Bill S-228”, said Dr Seema Nagpal, Vice President of Science and Policy at Diabetes Canada.
“If Canada’s Senate is to be recognized as a modern and important part of our legislative process, it must work efficiently. This means devoting time to providing constructive improvements to important legislation, while voting promptly on those bills that have already gone through due process – bills such as S-228,” Senator Tony Dean said. “It is time we address this legislation that is before us – our children and future generations depend on us.”
Key dates on this bill :
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