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Evidence shows that junk food advertising makes it difficult for parents to build healthy eating habits in children. That’s why Cancer Council SA recently conducted a study on junk food advertising near South Aussie schools and found that almost 80 per cent of food and drink ads are about junk food.

The study, launched in December 2022, analysed 253 advertisements related to food or drink on government-owned buses and bus shelters within 500 metres of 65 South Australian public schools, finding up to 80 per cent of them featured junk food.

Mum of four Amy Graham says she has noticed junk food advertisements on bus shelters near her 11-year-old daughter’s school and she is worried about how exposure to these ads will impact her children’s food habits in adulthood.

“They get in the car and ask if they can have what they have seen on a poster rather than the healthy snacks or meal I’ve made at home,” she says.

“I am concerned that these ads don’t really provide the whole picture or promote the idea of a balanced diet, and if this is all that kids are seeing, we have a real battle to advocate for them to eat healthy foods.”

Currently in South Australia, bus stops and buses have no restrictions on the types of food and drink advertising that can be shown on them. In Queensland, WA and the ACT, junk food and alcohol ads have been restricted on buses since 2015.

Cancer Council SA Prevention and Advocacy Manager Christine Morris says that these findings are very concerning.

“We really empathise with parents, as we know that when kids are bombarded with junk food ads, it’s really hard for parents to help their children make healthy choices,” Christine says.

“We have seen encouraging results from international studies that have shown that banning junk food advertising can help to reduce junk food consumption amongst young people,” she says.

“We want to see similar restrictions in place here in South Australia to help give South Australian kids the best start they can in life and support parents and children to make healthy lifestyle choices.”

Evidence shows that a diet high in junk food is linked to long-term weight gain. Being overweight or obese can lead to health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, bowel, kidney and stomach.

Learn more about the link between diet and cancer.