Tuesday, 7 February 2023


Junk food advertising

Junk food advertising

Tim READ (Brunswick) (19:25): (17) My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Public Transport, and the action I seek is that he ban unhealthy food and drink advertising across Victoria’s public transport network this year. I met recently with Cancer Council Victoria, VicHealth and Deakin University’s Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition. All are members of the Obesity Policy Coalition, who are calling on the government to protect children from unhealthy food and drink advertising. Their research shows the average Victorian child sees upwards of 25 unhealthy food and drink ads every day, including on public transport and near schools, and that this advertising has a strong influence on what children buy or nag their parents to buy. We all know by now that eating too much energy-dense or ultraprocessed food causes tooth decay and obesity and its many complications, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease, all of which are more common in lower income suburbs. But what is less well known is that being above a healthy weight significantly increases the risk of more than a dozen types of cancer, including bowel cancer and postmenopausal breast cancer.

So why are we letting the processed food industry teach our children what to eat? Obviously the government did not consciously decide to help advertisers promote disease-causing products to our community. But this is not the first time this has been pointed out, and governments can only shrug and look away for so long before it starts to look like they do not care. Now all Victorians are wondering how we will deal with excessive outpatient waiting times, surgical waiting lists and even longer public dental waiting lists, and while we are waiting for what the government can do about this, a coalition of health organisations has come together to ask that our Department of Transport and Planning no longer allow disease-causing advertising on its property.

Let us not shrug and look away this year. The evidence is clear: banning junk food advertising works. In 2019 the City of London removed junk food ads from its public transport network and three years later researchers found the policy had reduced junk food consumption. And 73 per cent of Victorian parents agree that advertising for junk food should not be allowed on public transport. The ACT government has banned unhealthy food advertising on government-run transport, and the WA and Queensland governments are planning to act. The processed food companies do not waste millions of dollars; they spend this money on very expensive outdoor advertising because they know it works for them. So let us get moving and ban junk food ads from our public transport network.