MUMBAI: Concern in the western world at the adverse health effects of advertising junk food and beverages on TV to children has spread to India - where total TV viewership exceeds 415 million.

In September 2006, there were an estimated 110.2 million TV households in the USA, compared with roughly 105m Indian TV homes. So in terms of scale the child advertising problem is comparable to the USA, as the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has recently taken note.

ASCI is currently working on a charter to which its members will be expected to adhere. It will be based, in part, on rulebooks developed elsewhere on the globe, the USA and Europe in particular.

Cadbury Schweppes' local arm has already made the running, declaring: "We recognise and will act on the special responsibility we have to protect children from their own vulnerabilities. Therefore, we will not advertise where children under the age of eight are likely to be the majority of the audience."

ASCI welcomes the move. According to its secretary-general, India's advertising industry aims to introduce self regulatory guidelines before the government decides to clamp down on child-targeting ads.

The new code is expected to ensure that manufacturers do not make misleading claims about the nutritional value of the products they sell. However, it believes the ad industry should not act in isolation, stating that "public health is the responsibility of all stakeholders".

India's food and beverage advertisers aim to work with all interested parties "in empowering consumers to choose diets and levels of physical activity which can positively impact their health and well-being."

Data sourced from The Times of India; additional content by WARC staff