Seán Crowe T.D. has welcomed a new report from the Oireachtas Children and Youth Affairs Committee on Tackling Childhood Obesity and said the targeting of children by junk food marketers must be urgently addressed by Government. The Sinn Féin TD believes that moves to restrict the sale and advertising of high sugar content drinks and junk food to children via social media, mobile gaming apps, and other forms of media needs to be planned for and the necessary actions implemented.

Deputy Seán Crowe said: “This report was welcomed by all TDs and I support any action which tries to reverse obesity trends, prevent serious health complications, and reduce pressures on our health system. “Moves to restrict the sale and advertising of high sugar content drinks and junk food to children via social media, mobile gaming apps, and other forms of media needs to be planned for and the necessary  actions implemented as a matter of urgency. “It is bizarre that students are being taught about healthy lifestyles in home economics on the one hand and then when they walk out of the classroom they are immediately confronted by vending machines selling sugar laden drinks and juke food.

“Research from Safefood estimates that 55,056 children currently living in the State, and 85,688 on the whole island, will die prematurely due to overweight and obesity. That is the huge challenge facing Irish society and we need to act now. “Children and adults are eating themselves into bad health, and into an early grave. We need to know it the limited measures like a sugar tax are impacting in any positive way.”

Crowe continued: “We know from other reports that the total lifetime financial costs of childhood obesity are estimated to be about €4.6 billion, with the direct healthcare associated costs estimated at around €1.7 million. “We also know from other jurisdictions that simple health improvements can make a massive differenc. “If Body Mass Index (BMI) was reduced by as little as 1%, the lifetime cost of childhood overweight and obesity would be reduced by as much as €270 million. A BMI reduction of 5% would reduce the lifetime costs by €1.1 billion with the added bonus of a significant impact on health and wellbeing of children. “Reducing the levels of obesity makes financial sense and there are huge health benefits, but unfortunately there seems to be little appetite by the government to tackle the issue among children, and later among adults, as highlighted by this Oireachtas report. “Public information campaigns and programs like Operation Transformation can be life changing but the crisis has moved well beyond the discussion phase and urgent actions are needed.”