NEARLY eight in 10 Scots would back a ban on junk food advertising before the watershed, according to a new poll.

Support for the restriction was slightly higher in Scotland than in the UK as a whole, where three quarters of those surveyed said they supported the move.

Researchers at Stirling University said adverts for fast food and sugary snacks "tempt children with pretty colours and cartoons", and urged the UK Government to ban advertisers from promoting these products on television before 9pm as a way of tackling childhood obesity.

Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK's expert in cancer prevention based at Stirling University said: "In Scotland we joke about our nation's 'sweet tooth' but it is no laughing matter when this contributes to people being overweight or obese and at higher risk of some cancers.

“Junk foods high in sugar and fat are everywhere in Scotland and adverts for these foods tempt children with pretty colours and cartoons.

“At a time when junk food is cheap and packed with extra calories, we need stronger action to help prevent children from choosing these foods.

"We want the UK Government to ban junk food adverts on TV before the 9pm watershed, put a tax on sugary drinks and enforce targets for reducing the amount of fat and sugar in food."

The YouGov poll, published today by Cancer Research, questioned 1,774 adults including 151 in Scotland.

Two thirds (64 per cent) of those polled in Scotland supported a tax on sugary drinks, compared to 55 per cent for the UK as a whole.

Scots were also more likely to support a reduction in junk food advertising online and cutting price promotions on junk food such as buy-one-get-one-free.

Three quarters (76 per cent) of the Scottish public backed a reduction in online advertising, compared to 69 per cent across the UK, while 75 per cent want to see cuts to promotions such as 'bogof' deals compared to 66 per cent nationally.

Almost one in three children in Scotland are overweight or obese.

Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “To give children the best chance of a healthy future, we need to make sure there are plenty of healthy options available to them. But this is difficult when they’re exposed to lots of cheap junk food.

“Obese children are more likely to be obese as adults, which in turn increases their risk of developing cancer in later life, along with many other health problems. So it’s important that young people are encouraged to eat healthily and keep active and that healthy choices are easy to make.

“Obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking and is linked to up to 10 different types including breast, bowel, and pancreatic cancer.”

The findings come after a poll for Diabetes UK found that three quarters of adults want food manufacturers to reduce the amount of saturated fat, salt and added sugar in their products.

The Government is due to publish its strategy for tackling childhood obesity in the next few weeks.

It has so far resisted calls for a tax on sugary drinks - as called for by campaigners including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Current estimates for school-age children are that almost 15 per cent of all their calorie intake is made up of sugar.

The main sources include soft drinks, table sugar, confectionery, fruit juice, biscuits, buns, cakes, pastries, puddings and breakfast cereals.