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Agenda item

Councillor Copley: Non-harmful Advertising Policy

Advertising of products and activities that are, or are potentially harmful to mental or physical health, or are incompatible with limiting global heating to 1.5°C and preventing biodiversity loss are very common on our television screens, radios, social media feeds and across a variety of out-of-home advertising media. Advertising is known to promote behaviour which can be damaging to individual and/or planetary health, including overconsumption which is a key driver of climate and ecological breakdown. The consumption of the average UK citizen, if followed by all citizens globally would require 2.6 Earths worth of resources.


There is however a strong precedent for halting harmful forms of advertising. Tobacco advertising and sponsorship on billboards and in printed publications were banned from 2003, and tobacco sponsorship of international sport from 2005. The Greater London Authority (GLA), which controls Transport for London (TFL) property, enacted a Healthier Food Advertising Policy in 2018 prohibiting High Fat, Sugar or Salt (HFSS) food advertising on TFL property. Liverpool City Council passed a ‘Low Carbon Advertising Policy’ motion (aimed at excluding advertising of polluting cars, Sport utility vehicles (SUVs), airline flights and fossil fuel companies); Bristol City Council banned advertising of HFSS food, gambling and payday loans on those sites for which it has responsibility; and Norwich City councillors have unanimously supported developing a policy to limit harmful categories of advertising and sponsorship such as gambling, “junk food” and environmentally-damaging products.


Cambridge should be following these examples as a matter of urgency, in line with it’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of the city’s residents, and it’s declarations of climate and biodiversity emergencies, and recent stated commitment to the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global heating to 1.5°C. The very purpose of advertising is to stimulate demand for goods and services, and that some of those goods and services undermine the council’s objectives regarding public health, air pollution and sustainability.


This council resolves to:


1.    Given the harmful effects to individual and planetary health that the promotion of harmful activities and products can have, ask officers to explore and report back to the relevant scrutiny committee of the policy, legislative, financial and contractual constraints and implications of the implementation of a non-harmful advertising policy (including products and services that can contribute to poor physical or mental health, high carbon emissions, air pollution and biodiversity loss).

2.    To formally submit a policy proposal to the next phase of the emerging Local Plan regarding digital advertising boards, which entails a presumption against granting planning applications for all new digital advertising screens in the City due to the high reported electricity use of these technologies.

3.    Write to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, asking for a ban on advertising that is harmful to mental or physical health, or incompatible with the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global heating to 1.5°C, nationally, noting that in Italy, a ‘Dignity Decree’ was introduced in 2018 that banned all advertisements for gambling services on television, radio, print media, the internet, or any other public forum.


This motion was withdrawn by Councillor Copley under Council Procedure Rule 13.