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Cancer Council research reveals the staggering $129.5M advertising spend by the sugary drink industries vastly outweighs investment in public health advertising in Australia, enticing young Australians to consume these unhealthy products.

Total advertising expenditure on sugary drinks alone reached more than $129.5M over two years, around five times the level of government investment ($26.5M) in public health campaigns promoting healthy eating, physical activity and obesity prevention combined.

The study found that at least 80 per cent of the advertising spend promoting sugary drinks could be visible to kids going about their daily lives, with nearly half (45%) of advertising budget spent on TV advertising and more than a third (35%) on out of home advertising.

Regular sugary drinks consumption can cause unhealthy weight gain, which in turn increases the risk of serious, chronic diseases, including 13 types of cancer.

Cancer Council WA Cancer Prevention and Research Director, Melissa Ledger, warns that without stronger protections from all levels of government, children will continue to be bombarded with unhealthy food and drink advertising that contributes to obesity and undermines the effectiveness of positive public health messaging.

“Sugary drink companies are putting millions behind advertising, where they know kids will see it. Every junk food ad shapes our kids’ diets including what our kids want to and will eat as, well as what they think a healthy diet looks like,” Ms Ledger cautions.

“Our children should be free to walk to school, without seeing the latest soft drink ad at their bus stop. They should be able to enjoy watching their footy team score or their favourite TV program without being bombarded with harmful marketing that increases the risk of obesity, and 13 types of cancer later in life.”

Malcolm Clark, Senior Prevention Policy Manager at Cancer Research UK, led campaigns to reduce childhood obesity, and is currently in Australia encouraging all levels of government to follow the UK’s lead on restricting junk food marketing.

“Acting early is crucial. These advertising policies could have a lasting impact on cancers related to excess weight for generations to come. The TV and online advertising restrictions alone could reduce the number of children in the United Kingdom with obesity by more than 20,000 and save significant health costs,” Mr Clark said.

“Importantly, the policies also prompt industry to focus on making and promoting healthier products in the place of unhealthy foods.

“Measures introduced in the United Kingdom to restrict junk food advertising, reduce the in-store promotion of less healthy food and drink, and tax sugary drinks are popular and effective steps towards creating a healthier environment for every child. Politicians in Australia should not be afraid to follow suit.”

Cancer Council WA is calling on the WA Government to follow suit, by ensuring public property such as buses, trains, train stations, billboards and our stadiums are free from unhealthy food marketing.