Wero laid down on alcohol, tobacco and junk food

Public health experts have laid down a wero to politicians ahead of the upcoming general election – to reduce the devastating harms from tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food.

These three products cause nearly one-third of all preventable loss in healthy life-years in Aotearoa but policy actions and funding commitments to reduce their harm lag far behind other comparable countries.

Today, Health Coalition Aotearoa has released its Prevention Brief – evidence-based policy priorities needed urgently to address these harms.

Co-chair Professor Boyd Swinburn says addressing social and health problems from the trio of products will mean taking on harmful industries to level the playing field of policy influence.

“We need to make it harder to lobby behind closed doors and increase investment in prevention to at least 5 per cent of the health budget.”

“We urgently need to shine more sunlight on what’s going on behind the scenes.”

With no regulation of food and drink marketing to children, kids are exposed to an average of eight advertisements for unhealthy food and drink every hour during peak television viewing hours. There is no protection from relentless targeting of ad algorithms while children are online.

Low-income neighbourhoods are disproportionately swamped with outlets for fast food and alcohol. A recent study found this contributes to alcohol marketing being seen by Māori and Pacific children five times and three times more often than New Zealand European children.

Health Coalition Aotearoa co-chair Associate Professor Lisa Te Morenga said targeting of communities with high Māori and Pacific populations was perpetuating systemic inequity in health outcomes.

Huge progress has been made to reduce harm from tobacco – with world-leading smoke-free regulations setting Aotearoa on a path to welcome the first Smoke-free generation, but these will need to be fully implemented to achieve Smoke-free 2025.

Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall has provided excellent leadership on tobacco control and other prevention initiatives – but this needed to be replicated for alcohol and junk food, Te Morenga said.

“Communities want positive messages around tamariki so let’s set the standard by restricting alcohol marketing in law, like we did with Smokefree, and amend legislation to better protect rangatahi from vaping-related harms.”

Politicians, including Dr Ayesha Verrall (Labour Party), Dr Shane Reti (National Party) and Chloe Swarbrick (Green Party) will respond to the prevention brief at a political panel on prevention, hosted by Health Coalition Aotearoa, the Public Health Communications Centre, and the University of Otago on August 8.

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