To counter the food industry’s methods, fight childhood obesity, allowing their children to grow and develop in a supportive food environment, that encourages and helps making healthy food choices as well as maintaining a healthy weight, and, thus, to protect them, Quebec has a law that prohibits commercial advertising to children under the age of 13.

Quebec has therefore become the only North American jurisdiction to recognize the risks of marketing to children by integrating sections 248 and 249 to the Consumer Protection Act (CPA),1 in force since 1980.

Consumer Protection Act

In 2012, the Office de la protection du consommateur (OPC) has updated the Application Guide for Sections 248 and 249 of the CPA (the Application Guide) to reflect the evolution of media and marketing practices, as well as today young people habits.2

To determine whether or not an advertisement is directed at children, account must be taken of the context of its presentation as defined by the following three criteria and explained in the Application Guide, which gives examples for illustrative purposes:

a) nature and destination of the product advertised (What?, For whom?);
b) way of presenting the advertisement (How?);
c) time or place it is shown (When?, Where?).

Exceptions

As the provisions of the law on advertising to children have existed for over 30 years, and although they were among the first in the world to have been adopted, some improvements would be desirable to make them more effective.

The regulation respecting the application of the CPA lists a number of exemptions to the Act allowing some advertisements to children:3

  • store windows and displays;
  • containers, wrappings and labels;
  • announcements for shows intended for children;
  • advertisement included in some children’s magazines.

Unfortunately, exceptions, such as displays, containers, packaging and labels of several food products full of advertisements (e.g.: funny pictures, characters, cross-promotion of small or big screen heroes, direct allusions to fun or games on the packaging, funny names, puzzles or games for children, unusual shapes / colors / taste, childish display, etc.) are used to circumvent the spirit of the CPA and target young peoople.

Given the many health problems associated with poor-quality diets and the fact that 89% of food products for children in Canadian supermarkets have low nutritional value, these exceptions to the CPA, which negatively influences the children’s eating habits, should be reviewed.4

Moreover, a majority of Quebecers would like stronger enforcement of the CPA regarding advertising to children. At the federal level, the Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition advocates for a legislation similar to that of Quebec.


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