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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 7 Hansard (17 August) . . Page.. 2356..

Junk food advertising-impact on young Canberrans

Discussion of matter of public importance

MR DEPUTY SPEAKER: Mr Speaker has received letters from Dr Foskey, Mr Gentleman and Ms Porter proposing that matters of public importance be submitted to the Assembly. In accordance with standing order 79, Mr Speaker has determined that the matter proposed by Ms Porter be submitted to the Assembly, namely:

The impact on young Canberrans of the Federal Government's refusal to act on junk food advertising.

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (4.12): This afternoon I am pleased to speak in debate on this matter because of my strong interest in health. It is estimated that more than 12 per cent of the children in our community are overweight or obese and that figure continues to grow. Australia is now one of the leading nations in rates of childhood obesity, a problem that poses a significant threat to the future health of our nation.

In the past 20 years the number of obese Australians has doubled, with 60 per cent of the population now considered either overweight or obese. The number of young people presenting as overweight or obese is increasing at an alarming rate and has more than doubled in the past 15 years, making it more important than ever before that we educate our youth about healthy eating habits.

Current figures show that obese children have a 25 to 50 per cent chance of progressing to adult obesity. This risk can increase to almost 80 per cent for older obese adolescents. Obesity is now in epidemic proportions and is putting the lives of more than one million Australian children in danger. The livers of obese children start to degenerate sooner than the livers of other children. There are instances of artery blockage, they often have difficulty breathing when they are awake, and sometimes they suffer from sleep apnoea.

If left untreated, obesity places an immense stress on the heart, which could lead to stroke and heart attack. There can be severe impairment of mobility and it may lead to type two diabetes, blindness, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, arthritis and kidney failure, not only reducing the enjoyment of life but also possibly leading to death. There are a number of causes of obesity but an obvious one is the decline in physical activity in children and an increase in unhealthy eating habits.

Television viewing has been identified as a major factor in contributing to the problem of increasing overweight and obesity in young people, as it promotes sedentary behaviour and influences general food consumption patterns and increased consumption of snack foods. On average, Australian children watch about 23 hours of television a week. Of that time about 240 minutes are advertisements. That equates to approximately four hours of advertisements per week and 208 hours per year.

Research provided by The Parents Jury shows that Australian television airs the highest number of food advertisements per hour in the world during children's programs, being 12 per cent, in comparison to the United States of America showing 11 per cent, the United Kingdom 10 per cent, and Austria just one food advertisement per hour.

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