SINGAPORE - A free toy with a fast food meal? Forget it, if the proposals announced Saturday are accepted.
Fast food restaurants may have to stop trying to attract children with such marketing ploys and soda makers may have to tailor their advertising campaigns for the adult population.
These are among the key changes to advertising rules that may be adopted by the authorities to protect children from being drawn to a diet that is high in fat, sugar or salt.
The proposed changes were revealed by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong (right) at the launch of this year's National Healthy Lifestyle Campaign. Mr Gan said the Government will launch a public consultation on the subject next month.
The Health Promotion Board said evidence has shown that advertising influences children's food preferences, purchase requests and consumption patterns.
The World Health Organisation has been encouraging member states to restrict advertisements of food and drinks that are high in fat, sugar or salt to children.
Countries like Norway and Sweden, and the state of Quebec in Canada, have already banned such advertisements aimed at children aged 12 years and younger.
The UK and South Korea have statutory regulations restricting food advertising. Finland and Denmark have introduced guidelines in this area. Mr Gan said Singapore is planning to do the same.
Advertisers here have to abide by the Code of Advertising Practice set by the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore.
It states, for example, that advertisements should not actively encourage children to replace main meals with confectionery or snacks.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said more can be done to promote a healthy lifestyle, even though Singaporeans are exercising more, eating better and undergoing regular health screening.
"Singapore has been promoting healthy lifestyles for 20 years. We have made progress - more people are exercising, fewer are smoking and Singaporeans are generally more aware of the need to stay fit and healthy," The Straits Times quoted him as saying at the launch of the campaign.
But obesity rates have been going up as well, especially with more fast food restaurants here 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.
"At the same time, each person has to take responsibility for his own health. We must each watch our weight, eat healthily and exercise regularly, and avoid smoking."
Along with some 20,000 participants, Mr Lee revisited the achievements of two decades of the National Healthy Lifestyle Campaign and took part in the Great Singapore Workout, an annual highlight of the event.
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