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New Cancer Council research reveals banning junk food ads on public transport could save WA billions

Dylan CapornThe West Australian
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New Cancer Council research shows a WA Government ban on public transport junk food advertising could save the State up to $2 billion over 30 years.
Camera IconNew Cancer Council research shows a WA Government ban on public transport junk food advertising could save the State up to $2 billion over 30 years. Credit: lev dolgachov/Syda Productions - stock.adobe.c

A ban on unhealthy food and drink advertising on public transport could lead to an average weight loss in Perth of 1kg per person, and benefit WA to the tune of $2 billion over 30 years.

Research, released on Tuesday by Cancer Council WA, revealed the economic benefit of blocking all fatty food, soft drinks and alcohol advertising on State Government property, including buses and trains.

While there was a cost to the Government in forgoing the advertising revenue, the report found a total benefit of $1.9 billion over three decades, including healthcare cost savings of $166 million and $1.8 billion from the value of health gains.

There was also an average weight loss of 0.92kg across the metropolitan region.

Transport authorities in London have implemented a similar ban, with a study finding a drop in purchases of the foods and drinks no longer advertised.

Research author Dr Jaithri Ananthapavan said there was now a “compelling rationale” for the State Government to implement this policy.

“Previous research indicates that when we remove unhealthy food advertising from prominent places and high-exposure locations, such as sides of buses, train stations and billboards, there is a corresponding decrease in purchasing and consumption of these foods and drinks,” she said.

“This new research suggests that over time, at a population level, these healthier diets correspond to a shift in body weight and fewer cases of diet and body weight-related diseases, such as heart disease, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes.

“A policy restricting advertisements of unhealthy food and drinks on transport property owned by the WA Government is likely to be excellent value for money.”

Cancer Council WA chief executive Ashley Reid said the amount of junk food advertising in the State was undermining the collective efforts to eat well — and it was not just a battle for health.

“We need the WA Government to take a strong leadership role in protecting the broader WA community from junk food advertising, and this new economic evaluation report shows that this policy is likely to be both health promoting and cost-saving in the longer term,” Mr Reid said.

“The time for action is now. Transport for London has successfully removed advertisements for unhealthy food from its property, and an evaluation has shown it has made a difference to what people buy, without impacting on government ad revenue.

“We call on multiple ministers of the State Government to play their role in protecting the community from the ongoing harmful exposure to junk food promotion by creating standards on the advertising it allows on its own property, such as sport stadiums and public transport.”

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