Sophie Scamps will demand action against junk food advertising

Restricting the promotion of unhealthy foods to children is a key measure contained in the national obesity strategy released in March. But the strategy has gathered dust, with neither major party committed to reform.

Scamps said restricting advertising was the “low hanging fruit” among recommended policy tools to reduce obesity and likened the measure to banning tobacco advertising, which has helped reduce smoking rate.

The federal government has jurisdiction over advertising laws, but has allowed the industry to govern itself through a self-regulatory code administered by Ad Standards, part of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA ).

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said that although children “need extra protection in advertising”, there were no plans to abandon the current self-regulatory approach.

Public health advocates say self-regulation is failing, pointing to junk food companies’ argument that they don’t advertise to children by sponsoring their sports because they only use their brand names and not pictures of their products.

The Obesity Policy Coalition has advocated for a ban on junk food advertising aimed at children on television, including prime time, and for children to no longer be targeted by social media.

The National Obesity Strategy said the average five-to-eight-year-old was exposed to 827 junk food TV ads a year and that sponsorships of unhealthy food and drink ‘undermined the health benefits of sport’ “.

The strategy set the goal of reducing the proportion of children’s and adults’ total energy intake from discretionary foods from more than 30% to less than 20% by 2030, but the proposal to restrict the marketing of junk food was not implemented.

Scamps said the country’s obesity problem had gone unnoticed during the pandemic, but the costs to the healthcare system were mounting as more Australians developed related conditions such as type 2 diabetes. and some cancers.

She said she expected parents to support the measure, which would help reduce children’s demand for unhealthy food when shopping.

“We all know how powerful that nagging voice is that kids, when we’re at the checkout, and they’ve seen something on TV, and they really want it…it’s very hard to say no” , she said.

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Labor promised during the election campaign to consider further restrictions on unhealthy products “on their merits”, pointing to “the party’s proven track record of action on harmful products”, including plain cigarette packaging and alcohol taxes.

Last year, the AANA updated its self-regulatory code to prohibit the use of junk food images in sponsorship ads targeting children, but there are no restrictions on the use of names. brands or logos.

The association is revising its Code for Advertising to Children, which currently states that the marketing of food or drink to children “shall not encourage or promote an inactive lifestyle or unhealthy eating or drinking habits”. alcohol “.

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