Doctors want digital black-out on junk food ads

By AdNews | 2 April 2024

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is calling on the federal government to put the health of children ahead of the profits of harmful industries by urging for tougher laws on unhealthy food and drink advertising. 

AMA president professor Steve Robson said an online marketing ban would help establish healthy food consumption habits from a young age.

"Limiting junk food advertisements and marketing is about nurturing health in our children, providing them with the opportunity to make healthy choices well into adulthood,” he said. 

In a submission to the Department of Health and Aged Care, the AMA has highlighted the preventive health benefits of a digital black-out on junk food adverts along with heavy restrictions on television advertising, sponsorship, and new promotion and placement rules in the retail sector.

“Eating habits start young, when kids are highly susceptible to marketing ploys,” Robson said. 

“Junk food marketing at the sports field, in the shops, on tv or online gives the wrong message by making unhealthy food feel completely normal.” 

The AMA submission calls for restrictions on all junk food marketing across media platforms and outlets between 5.30am and 11pm.

The AMA is also urging the government to implement tight restrictions on unhealthy food sponsorship of sports, arts and cultural events.

“Children should be able to play sport, watch their favourite sports stars play and go to art and cultural events without being bombarded with marketing for unhealthy food,” Robson said.

The submission opposes the industry regulating itself.

“Allowing the processed food and advertising industries to set their own rules does not effectively protect children from exposure to unhealthy food marketing,” Robson said.

“We need to restrict placement and promotion of unhealthy food within retail environments, and we want a policy to extend beyond traditional media and include parts of our daily lives where children are influenced.”

The submission also highlights some of the challenges for government including the affordability of healthy foods.

“It is critically important that the Australian Government also introduces policies to increase the affordability and accessibility of healthy foods across Australia,” Robson said.  

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