The bill targets advertising of unhealthy food, as defined by Australia’s health ministers in the past, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, confectionery, and unhealthy fast food. The bill would ban advertising for unhealthy foods on TV, radio, streaming services, and social media from 6 am-9:30 pm. This proposal highlights our greatest health challenge and takes action to address it.
Since 1980, the proportion of Australian adults who are obese or overweight has tripled. About one-quarter are overweight or obese in Australia today. These consequences can be serious. Obesity can increase the risk of chronic diseases in children, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Obesity costs the healthcare system billions each year. Not to mention the lost years due to illness, disability, or premature death.
It’s not the first time that a ban on junk food advertising has been proposed. There are more reasons than ever for it to happen.
Advertising of unhealthy foods is the primary cause of Australia’s obesity crisis. Restricting this advertising could improve our diet.
Since 2009, the Australian National Preventive Health Agency recommended them. The World Health Organization has also long advocated for restrictions on advertising. Has been recommended for years by the World Health Organization. Evidence shows that advertising affects children’s eating habits, preferences, and feelings of hunger.
It is safe to assume that advertising junk food works, even without these proofs. If it didn’t work, then companies wouldn’t be spending money on it.
A study revealed that advertising in Australia on sugary beverages alone costs nearly five times as much as government campaigns to promote healthy eating, exercise, and obesity prevention. Companies carefully craft their advertising to attract children. They use promotional characters, games, and gifts. They also shift advertising online in order to adapt to changing viewing habits.
Parents are well aware that advertising is effective, as they have seen their children use “pester power” and spend their own money on unhealthy foods. Two-thirds of Australians are likely in favor of banning junk food advertisements during kids’ viewing hours.
Read more: Are you living in a food desert? These maps suggest it can make a big difference to your health.
What’s taking so long?
Why have governments not acted yet? The industry responded quickly to the call for advertising restrictions by health bodies nearly 15 years ago. The sector developed optional codes of conduct for “responsible marketing and advertising to children.” These codes are voluntary and vague and have significant loopholes and holes.
Self-regulation does not reduce junk food advertisements for children. In countries that have mandatory policies, junk food consumption has decreased. However, it rose when the industry took charge.
Australia and its kids have been left behind. Since Quebec, Canada implemented the first ban in 1980, over a dozen other countries have followed suit, and many more plan to. The policies that are being discussed in our Parliament were adopted by the United Kingdom in 2021.
Australia is not the only country that has failed to set sensible food regulations. We’re not one of the 43 countries that have rules on reducing trans-fats, which can cause heart disease or the 85 countries that tax sugar-sweetened drinks, which are linked with diabetes.
Our efforts to improve food labeling and reduce salt consumption are less effective than in other countries.
Read more: How to save $50 off your food bill and still eat tasty, nutritious meals.
It’s time to make healthy choices easier.
Blaming individuals for unhealthy diets is not the right answer. Time pressures, cost pressures, availability of fresh foods, and marketing are all factors that influence unhealthy food choices.
To compete with unhealthy choices, governments must make healthy options more affordable, convenient, and appealing. A good place to start would be to remove all advertising directed at children.