Will banning Tony the Tiger save our children from sugar?

Thanks for all the good times, Tony. It’s been gr-r-r-r-r-eat!

The Committee of Advertising Practice have deemed fit to rid our screens and social media sites of Ronald McDonald and Tony the Tiger for fear that they are sucking our youth into a sugar and salt-based doom. The characters will no longer be allowed to appear on screen to advertise food products that are considered unhealthy and will soon also disappear from magazines and social media websites.

For the ban to be enforced, the under-16 audience of any given media need only be 25% or greater. This is actually far too little for Professor Kumar of the British Medical Association. He feels that the number of older children that access a wide-range of media sources necessitates a much smaller quorum. If parents can’t be trusted to moderate their child’s sugar intake, why should Professor Kumar trust them with what they let their children watch?

The attempt to erase Ronald & co. from the consumer consciousness of our children is the latest in a string of measures directed at tackling the country’s sugar problem. Other policies include a tax on products according to their sugar content, a national effort to reduce the sugar and salt content of food during production, an eradication of price promotions for unhealthy foods, the mandatory reduction of portion sizes and the removal of products from the ends of aisles and the tills to a more secluded spot.

In their 2016 paper ‘Sinnovation’, the Adam Smith Institute argue against such heavy handed actions as they do more harm than good. Looking at public conceptions of vices such as drinking and smoking, they stated that the majority regret the health risks of addiction, but did not generally support measures to penalise addicts as they actually passed on the pain to those who were able to partake in moderation.

If the primary aim is to have a much better educated society of responsible agents, then children need exposure to these issues and not hiding from them. However, the plan seems to have formulated that if you ban cartoon characters from appearing in adverts then sales for those products will drop. This will encourage companies to reduce their sugar and salt content in order that they can bring back their much-loved mascots and again increase their revenue.

With a better educated public comes the greater incentive for companies to innovate. They would need to find ways of delivering products that conform to their brand and values whilst also reducing sugar and salt content to fall in line with the higher expectations of their better-informed customers. This way, the majority of consumers who are able to indulge the occasional whim can do so without the financial penalty which comes with the enforced collective responsibility that the current proposals impose.

Ultimately, sugar consumption for children is a question of responsibility. Parents have the legal and moral obligation to ensure that their prides and joy aren’t mainlining sugar into their eyeballs. Advertising directed at children could well plant bad habits at a young age, but Tony the Tiger isn’t forcing Frosties into the trollies of unsuspecting parents.

So, will the disappearance of Ronald McDonald on daytime television reduce for ever the scourge of obesity for the next generation? Of course not, in fact pushing anything with high sugar or salt to the side-lines in an attempt to convince children that it doesn’t exist, or that it is in some way ‘forbidden’ is probably the basis of a much unhealthier relationship.


Daniel is a Secondary School teacher in Buckinghamshire and a member of the Wycombe Conservative Association. Follow him on Twitter: @danielrdownes

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty