A recent article published in the Journal of Public Policy has recommended “a national regulatory system prohibiting commercial marketing of foods and beverages to children” as part of an effort to curb rising obesity rates in Canada. Kim Raine, et al., “Restricting marketing to children: Consensus on policy interventions to address obesity,” Journal of Public Policy, February 2013. Building on a consensus conference held in April 2011 by the Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention, the article’s authors lay out a policy framework for evaluating “the political environment, evidence, issues, and challenges of placing restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages.”

In particular, they describe the industry-sponsored Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative as “insufficient,” noting that in addition to TV advertising, marketers have increasingly adopted new media—“the Internet, adver-gaming, mobile messaging, and viral marketing”—that do not fall under current standards. As a result, the article urges the Canadian government to ban “all commercial marketing of foods and beverages to children under 18 years of age,” as well as “set minimum standards, assure monitoring of compliance, and impose penalties for non-compliance.” It also calls on regulators to expand the definition of marketing to include “all media through which children are or can be targeted” and create “an independent body responsible for monitoring compliance.”

“Lessons learned from tobacco control suggest the need for broad social change in environments and policy,” write the authors. “Policies can create environments that make healthy choices easier and create opportunities to achieve healthy weights, but choosing among potential interventions poses a challenge to decision makers… Delaying remedial interventions because effectiveness is yet to be established makes little sense from a policy perspective as we need to avert future harm.”