Improving public health is ever more important for Australia as well as the rest of the world to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unhealthy products such as alcohol, tobacco, and junk food drive ill-health in communities. For instance, alcohol sales have been rising rapidly in Australia during the ongoing pandemic. This is in no way a coincidence as the alcohol industry exploited the pandemic to advertise alcohol heavily to drive higher consumption to maximize their profits.
Outdoor advertising is one strategy used by alcohol and other unhealthy commodity industries to push their products on people.
This type of advertising is linked with increasing unhealthy behaviors in populations. For example exposure to outdoor alcohol marketing near schools was associated with intentions to consume alcohol among young people.
In this context, the City of Mandurah’s action to ban unhealthy product outdoor advertising shows true leadership to solve societal problems.
The City of Mandurah is Western Australia’s largest regional city. It is located 70km south of Perth and is home to around 86,000 people, with children aged 0 – 14 years making up 18% of the population.
In the February City Council meeting, a policy was ratified to prohibit unhealthy advertising on City managed lands and road reserves. This is applicable to illuminated street signs, bench seats, banner poles, bins, billboards and bus shelters.
The following types of advertising are banned:
- Any advertisement that depicts images of unhealthy food,
- Any advertising that promotes smoking or tobacco products,
- Any advertising that depicts images that promote alcohol or the consumption of alcohol products, or
- Any advertisement that includes content that is considered by the City to be false, deceptive or misleading, considered by the City to be offensive or discriminatory or not in the spirit of this Policy.
This policy connects with the City’s Public Health and Wellbeing Plan. The city council officers recommended to the elected members to pass the advertising ban to protect the local community, since there is no unhealthy commodity advertising ban at the national level.
The City’s Public Health and Wellbeing Plan is a community driven, evidence-based strategy. The plan aspires to create a place where the community is proud, inspired, inclusive and innovative, where the City respects their connections to the past and creates a positive future. This vision would be achieved through delivering on the City’s values of being connected, using integrity, excellence, innovation and by being courageous.
The City of Mandurah is one of the first to adopt a policy specifically targeting unhealthy commodity advertising in the local government sector of Australia. The policy leads the way for other local governments as well as provincial and the national government to take bold action to protect citizens, families and communities from vested interests of unhealthy commodity industries.