More than 70% of adults are in favour of an outright ban on the advertising and promotion of unhealthy food and drinks to children, a poll has found.
The Ipsos MRBI research, conducted on behalf of the Irish Heart Foundation, showed that just 26% of people opposed to a blanket ban on advertising junk food such as sugary drinks, chocolate bars and crisps to children under 16.
3% didn't know how they felt about the idea.
It also found that 79% of people believe advertising is a significant contributor to childhood obesity, while 89% rated childhood obesity as a major concern in Ireland.
The poll showed that just over one-third of respondents were aware of regulations relating to marketing of unhealthy food and drinks to children.
The research was released at an event in Dublin to launch a new parents campaign group as part of the Irish Heart Foundation’s Stop Targeting Kids campaign.
Tim Collins, CEO of the Irish Heart Foundation, said, “There is conclusive and long-standing proof of a causal link between junk food marketing to children and child obesity.
"We know junk food marketing to children is rampant, we know it is fuelling obesity, we know this is damaging children’s health and we know the State is not doing enough to tackle the problem and is failing in its duty of care to protect children’s health.”
Almost 3/4 of the Irish public are in favour of an outright ban on the advertising and promotion of unhealthy food and drinks to children our new poll has revealed.#StopTragetingKids pic.twitter.com/CmIE6ijTTh— Irish Heart Foundation (@Irishheart_ie) November 7, 2018
Almost nine months after the launch of the Department of Health’s voluntary code on the marketing of food and beverages on non-broadcast media, no guidelines for its implementation have been issued and its independent monitoring body has not been established.
“This code is proving extremely useful in providing junk food brands with a mechanism to protect their profits, but to do little or nothing to protect children from unscrupulous marketing tactics," Mr Collins said.
"We now have children as young as eight with high blood pressure and young people showing early signs of heart disease once only seen in middle-aged men.”
An Irish Heart Foundation petition is calling for action by the Government to regulate digital marketing aimed at Irish children and to close loopholes in broadcast restrictions which mean that children still see 1,000 junk food and drinks ads on television every year.