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With students heading back to school today, Cancer Council SA has released new data that shows that almost 80 per cent of food and drink advertisements South Australian children will see on their way to school are about junk food.

The study looked at advertising on government-owned public transport assets, such as buses and bus shelters, within 500 metres of 65 South Australian public schools.

Of the 23 advertisements related to food or drink, almost 80 per cent were junk food advertisements.

Cancer Council SA Prevention and Advocacy Manager Christine Morris said that the data, consistent with similar studies undertaken in New South Wales and Western Australia, is very concerning.

“Evidence shows that junk food ads make it difficult to build healthy eating habits in children, which can lead to health impacts later in life,” she said.

“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.”

“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.”

“Locally, we have also seen restrictions announced in Queensland, WA and the ACT, where junk food and alcohol ads have been restricted on buses since 2015.”

“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 regular consumption of junk food is associated with long-term weight gain.

Being overweight or obese can lead to health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, bowel and stomach.

Currently in South Australia, Government owned assets such as bus stops and buses have no restrictions on the types of food and drink advertising that can be shown on them.

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

“When they finish school or an after-school sport and are hungry, I don’t want junk food to be the first thing they think about,” she said.

“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.”

“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.”

Learn more about the link between diet and cancer