Western Australian health agencies urge banning of junk food ads

17 November 2020

Western Australian health agencies such as the Cancer Council and the Telethon Kids Institute are asking the WA Government to cease junk food advertising in public places as concerns about obesity and other deleterious health effects grow. 

While the request to cease advertising at public transport hubs and on billboards is driven by significant concerns about obesity and other chronic diseases, Australia is also in the grip of an oral health crisis as outlined in Australia’s Oral Health Tracker (the Tracker), developed by the ADA in collaboration with the Australian Health Policy Collaboration. 

Figures from the Tracker not only highlight the intrinsic link between oral health and preventable chronic diseases such as diabetes, conditions and their risk factors, but demonstrate how sugar, a main ingredient in many junk foods, is damaging the nation’s oral health. 

The adult Tracker, updated in 2020, underscores the connection between unhealthy consumption of unhealthy food and drink (along with other risk factors such as smoking and alcohol intake at high levels), with 33% of adults consuming too much sugar for instance, and a range of oral health issues including, most importantly, a high prevalence of tooth decay. 

Initiatives such as the one proposed by the WA health agencies, detailed in a report commissioned by them from Deakin University play an important role in focusing peoples’ attention on the wide-ranging health ill-effects that comes from consuming junk food, often to excess but also in pointing out the long-term consequences of doing nothing to arrest Australia’s considerable health deficits, as a report on ABC News makes clear. 

“Telethon Kids director Jonathan Carapetis said the social, health and economic implications were substantial if the trend continued. 

"’This Government receives an absolute pittance in revenue from advertising, for example about a million dollars a year from junk food advertising on public transport,’ Professor Carapetis said. 

"’Yet in the next 10 years it will cost them more than $600 million a year to care for the chronic diseases that result from that sort of advertising that leads to kids eating and drinking junk foods.’"