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Saturday February 17, 2007

Government mulls over fast-food ad ban


PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry is “seriously considering” a ban on fast food advertisements.  

Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the move would also cover endorsements of events linked to fast food. 

This was because such meals are considered “silent killers,” he told reporters here. 

A fast food “sin tax” is also being pondered, added Chua. 

He said the rationale for the proposal was motivated by the increasing number of Malaysians suffering from “affluent” diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension.  

“There are a lot of lifestyle diseases because of rising affluence.  

“Surveys consistently show that Malaysians don’t exercise enough and do not pay attention to the food they eat.  

“This is the only country where people discuss over breakfast where and what to eat for lunch. And then over lunch, it will be what’s for supper,” he noted. 

Dr Chua said obesity, which was the “root of all problems”, now affected 37% of the population, compared to 20% a decade ago. 

About 12% of the population would suffer from diabetes by 2020 if nothing were to be done, he said. 

Dr Chua, a medical doctor, said as far as his ministry is concerned, burgers and fries are just as bad as cigarettes and liquor. 

Admitting that the move would be “revolutionary”, Dr Chua said the ministry welcomed feedback on its proposed action. 

“We want to send a strong signal to consumers. 

“We do not allow advertising for cigarettes and liquor.  

“Fast food should be treated in the same way as alcohol. The time has come.”  

Responding to the proposal, Association of Accredited Advertising Agents of Malaysia president Datuk Vincent Lee said a total ban on fast food ads would not be feasible. 

He said advertising agencies and their clients were already exercising “self-control” on fast food advertising, such as not targeting children aged below seven.  

“Even in the United States and Europe, there is no total ban on fast food advertising,” he said. 

Revenue from fast food advertising on TV, newspapers and billboards totalled over RM100mil annually.  

“So it will be quite detrimental to the media,” Lee said.  

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