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 How Mascots like Tony the Tiger Are Influencing Kids’ Eating Habits and Jeopardizing Their Health

 How Mascots like Tony the Tiger Are Influencing Kids’ Eating Habits and Jeopardizing Their Health

Link Discovered Between Popular Cartoon Characters and Unhealthy Eating Habits in Canadian Children

 New Research Highlights the Impact of Marketing Techniques on Kids’ Food Choices

Junk food mascots, including Tony the Tiger, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and the beloved Paw Patrol characters, have been found to contribute to the development of unhealthy eating habits in Canadian children, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Ottawa and funded by Heart & Stroke.

The study, published on Tuesday, reveals a strong connection between licensed cartoon characters, such as Spiderman, and spokes characters, like Lucky the Leprechaun from Lucky Charms, and their ability to entice children into consuming junk food.

The researchers discovered that children are highly susceptible to marketing techniques specifically targeted at them.
Monique Potvin Kent, the lead author of the study and associate professor in the School of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Ottawa, emphasizes the significant impact that characters like Tony the Tiger and Snap, Crackle, and Pop have on kids.

Children are more likely to prefer products advertised with these characters and even persuade their parents to purchase them.

While the exact mechanism behind this influence is not yet fully understood, the researchers believe that the appeal lies in the lovable and familiar nature of these characters.

However, the implications for children’s health are concerning. Potvin Kent warns that these cartoon mascots pose a threat to children’s well-being, as the majority of their food consumption comes from ultra-processed, high-fat, sugary, and salty foods.

With approximately 30 percent of Canadian children and teenagers being either overweight or obese, addressing this issue is crucial to prevent the development of chronic diseases later in life.

The study also explored the impact of different types of characters in food marketing. More than 1,300 Canadian children, aged nine to twelve, were exposed to various food advertisements during January and February of this year.

The researchers analyzed their intentions to eat, buy, or request the products featured in the ads.

The children were exposed to ads containing either spokes characters like Tony the Tiger and the Pillsbury Doughboy or licensed characters like Spiderman or Paw Patrol. Another group of children saw no characters at all, while some advertisements targeted adults.

The study revealed that children exposed to spokes characters had a significantly higher average impact compared to those exposed to licensed characters. However, licensed characters still had a notable influence on children, surpassing the impact of ads without cartoon characters.

Childhood obesity rates in Canada have nearly tripled in the last three decades, according to Health Canada.

Factors such as a lack of exercise, consumption of high-calorie foods, genetic predisposition, and hormonal imbalances contribute to this alarming trend. Obese children face a higher risk of developing various health problems, including heart disease,

Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and depression. Dr. Tom Warshawski, a pediatrician and chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation, explains that consuming highly processed foods not only increases the lifelong risk of cardiovascular disease but also fosters unhealthy eating habits. The environment shaped by the food and beverage industry plays a significant role in this regard.

Currently, the regulation of food and beverage advertising to children in Canada is self-regulated by the industry. However, self-regulation has proven ineffective in reducing children’s exposure to food advertisements.

Health Canada acknowledges the vulnerability of children to advertising and its influence on their food attitudes, preferences, and overall health.

As a result, the organization is working on introducing restrictions on advertising certain foods to children, particularly those high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat.

Public opinion is being sought through proposed amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations, with the aim of limiting advertisements for unhealthy foods targeted at children under the age of 13.

This includes television and digital ads promoting candy, chips, chocolates, and sugary drinks. 

Health Canada is actively seeking input from the public on this topic, and the draft regulations are expected to be published in winter.

In addition to the proposed regulations, there is a bill, known as Bill C-52, currently making its way through Parliament.

This bill aims to prohibit the marketing of foods containing excessive amounts of sugar, sodium, and saturated fats to children under 13 years old. Furthermore, the bill includes provisions for monitoring the impact of food and beverage marketing on teenagers aged .

While these initiatives are steps in the right direction, the researchers of the University of Ottawa study and Dr. Warshawski argue that more needs to be done.

They suggest that Canada should go a step further and consider a complete ban on these characters in food advertising.

They point to the example of Chile, which banned the use of cartoon characters on children’s food packaging, particularly for sugary cereals, as part of their efforts to combat childhood obesity.

The researchers and Dr. Warshawski believe that retiring or repurposing these characteristics would be a significant move toward promoting healthier eating habits among children.

The need for change is urgent.?

With childhood obesity rates on the rise and the health consequences associated with it, the responsibility falls on both policymakers and the food industry to prioritize children’s well-being over profit.

While self-regulation has proven ineffective, stricter regulations and comprehensive advertising restrictions must be put in place.

By creating a healthier food environment and promoting nutritious options, Canada can take a significant step towards safeguarding the future health of its children.


The influence of mascots like Tony the Tiger on children’s eating habits cannot be underestimated. The University of Ottawa study sheds light on the power of marketing techniques targeted at children and their impact on food choices.

Urgent action is needed to address the issue of childhood obesity, including regulations that restrict the use of cartoon characters in food advertisements.

By prioritizing the promotion of healthy food options and creating an environment that supports better eating habits, Canada can pave the way for a healthier future generation.It is time to protect our children from the enticing grip of junk food mascots and prioritize their long-term health and well-being.

I apologize for the oversight. Here are the references for the information provided:

  1. Dangerfield, K. Mascots like Tony the Tiger are swaying kids to eat junk food, putting health at risk.’ Global News. Retrieved from [link to the original article]
  2. The University of Ottawa.  Endometriosis and Fusobacterium: Possible Links. Retrieved from [link to the original article]
  3. Health Canada. (n.d.). Childhood Obesity. Retrieved from [Health Canada’s website]
  4. Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Childhood Obesity. Retrieved from [Mayo Clinic’s website]


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