New move to kick in next year as part of ongoing efforts to combat rising obesity
Published on Oct 28, 2012
By Salma Khalik Health Correspondent
Advertisements that make unhealthy food and drinks appealing to children will be banned from early next year as part of Singapore’s battle against obesity.
Topping the list of ads likely to be affected are those for sweet drinks and fast food high in oil and salt.
Announcing this yesterday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the action is not targeted at specific brands, but at unhealthy food.
The move is an important initiative, he added, because eating habits are formed at a relatively young age. Singapore is also seeing a steady rise in obesity rates.
Health Promotion Board chief executive Ang Hak Seng said obesity rates have risen by 1 per cent a year over the past three years, and today, about 11 per cent of adults and 9 per cent of children are obese.
But what is scary, he added, is that half the obese children will grow up to be adults with diabetes, which increases a person’s risk of serious illness, including blindness, stroke and heart attack.
The experience in the West indicates that there will be a tipping point – when obesity affects 17 per cent to 18 per cent of the population – beyond which the rate rises even faster.
“This is because obesity becomes a norm. It becomes acceptable to society,” he said. “That’s why we must act now to prevent it from becoming a real obesity and diabetes epidemic.”
Mr Gan and Mr Ang spoke to reporters after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong joined 10,000 people at the launch of the 20th National Healthy Lifestyle Campaign at the Gardens by the Bay.
Mr Lee said in a statement that unhealthy lifestyles, diets and social environments were the cause of serious health problems in many developed countries.
Although more people here exercise and fewer smoke, obesity rates were rising because of a combination of more fast food and sedentary occupations.
“Hence, we must redouble our efforts and see what more we can do to regulate advertising and promote healthy food choices,” he said.
Mr Gan said the restrictions on ads targeting children will start with television programmes and children’s magazines.
Asked if ads for unhealthy food at bus stops near schools would also be affected, he said the ban could be expanded to other forms of advertising later.
There will be four weeks of public consultation via the Health Promotion Board website before the ban is implemented.
On a positive note, he said the Health Promotion Board’s discussions with media companies and food manufacturers have shown that “all of us are on the same page”.