School buses are no place for junk food ads, says top health organisations
By Cancer Council NSW
Cancer Council NSW is joining forces with 13 health experts and organisations to call on the NSW Government to remove junk food marketing from public transport, after growing concerns of their impact on children’s diets.
The 13 organisations, including the NSW branches of the Australia Medical Association, Australian Dental Association, Public Health Association of Australia and Heart Foundation this week submitted a joint statement to the NSW Government, urging them to remove unhealthy food advertising from property owned by, or contracted to, the NSW Government, particularly public transport.
Following the release last week of the National Obesity Strategy, that identifies food marketing on government owned property as an area for action, Clare Hughes, Cancer Council NSW’s Nutrition Manager says, “The NSW Government should lead by example and stop contributing to the unhealthy food environment. The current practice of accepting money for advertising from companies that make and sell unhealthy foods and drinks conflicts with healthy eating advice.”
Food marketing influences children’s food choices and their eating habits, and advertising of unhealthy foods, particularly on public transport, reaches a significant number of young people each day.
“These leading health organisations have joined together because we all want to help NSW children to develop healthy eating habits. Poor dietary habits mean these children will be at increased risk of growing up to develop chronic health conditions including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many cancers as adults,” Ms Hughes continues.
Cancer Council NSW research in 2018 showed 82% of food advertisements at major train stations and on buses were for unhealthy foods and an audit of 90 school bus routes to suburban Sydney primary and secondary schools found children travelling to school would be exposed to up to 2,800 unhealthy food advertisements a year, just from the transport mode they chose. A recent 2022 audit of Sydney buses found 83% of food advertisements on buses in the sample were for unhealthy foods.
This action supports existing programs funded by the NSW government to address poor diets and obesity rates and is timely, given the impact of COVID-19 on the NSW population and the increased risk posed by COVID-19 to those living with obesity.
Professor Louise Baur, NSW paediatrician and an internationally recognised childhood obesity researcher adds, “I know from my work in western Sydney that we can’t afford to ignore the fact that food advertising influences children’s food preferences and choices, and ultimately impacts their health outcomes.
Protecting children from unhealthy food marketing is recognised worldwide as vital to address poor diet and high obesity rates. The new National Obesity Strategy released last week, identifies unhealthy food advertising on government owned and operated property as an effective action to protect children from harmful food advertising The NSW Government must act now to protect our children and save lives.”
“We are asking the community to support our joint statement by heading to the Our Kids, Our Call website and joining the campaign,” Ms Hughes concludes.