Teal MP Sophie Scamps plans private member’s bill on junk food advertising and sponsorship

A teal independent is pushing to change the way junk food is advertised and marketed in a bid to stop Australia’s growing childhood obesity problem.

Sophie Scamps, who was a GP on Sydney’s northern beaches until recently becoming the MP for Mackellar, will put together a private member’s Bill to target fast-food advertisement and sponsorship.

The Bill is centered on the impact junk food has on children’s health, with Dr Scamps seeking to end the industry’s prevalent advertising during prime-time television and its sponsorship of children’s sport.

“Advertising that targets children – during the times when children are watching TV, at their sporting events – all those things need to be looked at. They can be changed,” she told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that nearly a quarter (24 percent) of children were overweight or obese, leading to the increased likelihood of various associated health problems.

But junk-food advertising remains a fixture of any prime-time television viewing experience, and some of the industry’s biggest restaurant chains sponsor the largest sports codes and teams from around the country.

Dr Scamps compared the measures in her Bill to the impact banning tobacco advertising had on smoking rates.

“We have a choice. We either look at prevention, or we start to expand our hospital systems radically now to deal with that chronic health disease burden,” she said.

The National Obesity Strategy, which was released in March earlier this year, noted that Australians “are regularly exposed to unhealthy food and drink marketing”, which included multimedia advertising and sports sponsorship.

It revealed an average five to eight-year-old child who watches around 80 minutes of television per day is exposed to 827 advertisements and four hours of “unhealthy food advertising” each year on free-to-air television.

A key potential strategy in the 10-year framework is reducing “unhealthy food and drink advertising, branding and sponsorship” to stop childhood obesity.

Dr Scamps believed her Bill would be supported by parents from across the country.

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

The practices of the advertising industry are generally self-regulated through the Australian Association of National Advertisers’ Ad Standards code.

The code was updated last year to stop images of junk food being used in sponsorship advertising targeting children.


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