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Cancer Council study calls for junk food ad ban on public transport

Researchers are calling for a ban on junk food advertising on state-owned property such as trains and buses over concerns of their influence on children.

A study conducted by Cancer Council NSW and the University of Wollongong found that children are exposed to up to 2800 ads for junk food every year on their way to and from school and authors say this could be a contributing factor to childhood obesity.

The ACT government has already removed junk food advertising from the state’s bus network, while Queensland is set to phase out this marketing from outdoor advertising spaces.

The study found a third of ads seen along typical school routes were for food and beverages, with 75 per cent for “discretionary” foods.

Fast foods such as burgers and chips were the most commonly advertised types of food and beverages, making up 23 per cent of ads, followed by sugary drinks at 17 per cent and snack foods at 16 per cent.

“Repeated exposure to unhealthy food advertising on school trips, especially coupled with exposure to other forms of advertising such as on television and online, means that children are immersed in an obesogenic environment that undermines efforts to develop healthy eating habits,” Clare Hughes, manager of Cancer Council NSW’s Nutrition Unit and report author said.

The authors argue that banning junk food ads on government property “would demonstrate a commitment to creating environments that help children to develop healthy eating habits and would support other government initiatives to reduce childhood obesity”.

The research, which appeared in the latest issue of Public Health Research & Practice, used Google Maps to plot typical train, bus and walking routes to 21 schools in the Greater Sydney region, attended by 23,000 students.

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