Public support for alcohol and junk food levy

Posted by Josette Dunn on 21st July 2010

VicHealth has today welcomed a bid to introduce a mandatory levy on alcohol and junk food advertising, in light of research that shows the overwhelming majority of Victorians want these industries to be accountable for the harm they cause.

“A levy on junk food and alcohol advertising would shift the focus away from products that are harmful for health and put the spotlight on the promotion of healthier products,” VicHealth CEO, Todd Harper, said.

“We know from VicHealth research that the majority of Victorians support a levy and want more stringent restrictions on alcohol advertising. This sends a strong message to our politicians that this issue is one that the public care about and one that needs further debate.”

Results from VicHealth research conducted in 2009 showed 83 per cent of the population support a levy on alcohol and junk food advertising, provided the funds raised are used to replace alcohol and junk food sponsorship in community sports clubs.

Previously unpublished VicHealth research shows that 80 per cent of Victorians support the introduction of an independent alcohol advertising watchdog to crack down on advertisers who breach the currently voluntary media codes and in addition, 82 per cent support measures to restrict advertising to children.

“Our research provides evidence of strong community support for governments to improve responsible consumption of alcohol and healthier food choices. This is supported by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Australia’s Health 2010 report, that indicates Type 2 diabetes will become the number one preventable illness in the country in just over a decade, overtaking disease caused by smoking.

“Now that the Australian Greens have put this issue on the agenda, it’s time to begin the discussion about what fast food and alcohol companies can do to be part of the solution and to address the rising tide of illness,” Mr Harper added.

Manager of VicHealth’s Reducing Harm from Alcohol Program, Brian Vandenberg, said research proves that alcohol advertising increases the likelihood of non-drinkers taking up the habit.

“As well as cultivating new drinkers, alcohol marketing has been shown to encourage current drinkers to increase the amount they drink. The alcohol industry will argue they abide by advertising codes, but these are self-regulated. In fact, they have a poor track record of breaching these codes and can no longer be trusted to do the right thing.

“Alcohol advertising is different to other forms of advertising, because it is a harmful product if it isn’t consumed responsibly. This is a product that costs Australia $15.3 billion every year and kills 60 Australians every single week.”

Mr Vandenberg said any money raised from a levy should be funnelled back into health initiatives directly related to alcohol.  “We’d like to see the money raised from an alcohol and junk food levy invested in a range of prevention measures, including education campaigns warning people of the dangers of alcohol and unhealthy foods,
as well as the establishment of an alcohol advertising watchdog. It should also be used to support treatment programs and to help families who are affected by alcohol.”