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Monitoring and restricting digital marketing of unhealthy products to children and adolescents

New WHO study shows more action needed to monitor and limit digital marketing of unhealthy products to children

A new report from WHO/Europe calls for greater monitoring of the digital marketing of alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food products, especially those high in salt, sugar and fat. It comes amid the advertising industry’s continued efforts to target children and adolescents on social media and on difficult-to-track mobile devices.

 “The overriding concern is that nearly a decade after introducing the 2010 WHO recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children, exposure of children to the online marketing of unhealthy food products, tobacco and alcohol remains commonplace,” said Dr João Breda, Head of the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases.

Monitoring the online advertising of unhealthy products to children is critical, as noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer, obesity and chronic respiratory disease are linked to smoking, alcohol abuse and the consumption of unhealthy food products. The onset of these diseases can be slowed or prevented if major risk factors and behaviours are addressed during childhood. Despite this, the new report “Monitoring and restricting the digital marketing of unhealthy products to children and adolescents” confirms that data on the digital lives of children are scarce. It points out that children’s time spent online, including on social media, has steadily grown, meaning that their exposure to digital marketing has also increased. The report urgently calls for developing and implementing a set of tools for monitoring the exposure of children to digital marketing.

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