Media release

Junk food and alcohol advertising levy could be used to better inform consumers about their choices

Imposing a levy on junk food and alcohol advertising can assist in addressing the gaps in consumer information about the health consequences of their consumption choices, and increases the incentive for food and alcohol industries to promote healthier products, according to an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia. 

Mr Todd Harper, CEO of the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth), and co-author, Prof Gavin Mooney, write that consumers are not able to make fully informed choices about purchasing junk food or alcoholic beverages because the advertising of these products generally carries little, if any, information on the health consequences of their consumption.

They proposed a model that would see a pool of funds created from a levy imposed on advertising expenditure for junk food and alcoholic beverages. These funds could be used to provide consumers with more complete and balanced information on the healthy and harmful impacts of food and alcohol choices.

“The funding could also be used to provide alternatives to junk food and alcohol sponsorships, and to inform consumers about healthier food and beverage products,” Mr Harper said.

He said the scale of the levy on advertising would be determined by the alcohol content of the beverage or the nutrient profile of the food.

“Grading the levy on advertising, such that the greater the adverse health effects and risks associated with the products the higher the levy, would not only assist in addressing consumer information deficits, it would be directly health-promoting,” Mr Harper said.

“It would discourage the advertising of junk food and alcohol, and encourage the promotion of healthier alternatives, priorities identified by the National Preventative Health Taskforce.”

Mr Harper said the proposal addressed the imbalance between the promotion of unhealthy and healthier products, and securing funds to empower consumers to make more informed choices about consumer products and health.

“The proposal’s underlying premise is that those who profit from selling relatively unhealthy products need to be encouraged to change their ways, and that harnessing the advertising clout of the food and alcohol industries to develop and promote healthier products and lifestyles would give significant impetus to moves to improve the health of society,” Mr Harper said.

The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.

The statements or opinions that are expressed in the MJA  reflect the views of the authors and do not represent the official policy of the AMA unless that is so stated.

CONTACT:    Mr Todd Harper        0417 561 412

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