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Ad industry behaving like King Canute

13 March 2008

Ad industry behaving like King Canute

Green Party MP Sue Kedgley is calling on the advertising industry to stop its exaggerated attacks on the Public Health Bill, and to engage instead in serious debate over a public health issue with huge implications for New Zealand and the sustainability of our health system.

"Instead of acting like King Canute trying to stem the turning tide, this industry should be using its considerable influence and power to promote healthy foods and healthy eating habits to our children.

"Even those with vested interests in profits and advertising revenue from unhealthy food should set those prejudices aside and engage in what is a truly groundbreaking and critical debate over our nation's health.

"Obesity, type 2 diabetes and other chronic dietary-related diseases are the major public health issues that confront us. Poor nutrition is the leading cause of death by risk factor in New Zealand. It would be grossly irresponsible for Parliament to fail to include provision for regulations that would reduce the risk of these diseases, in a major revamp of the Public Health Act.

"All New Zealanders will suffer if our health system is overwhelmed coping with dietary-related diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. That's why it is crucial that we protect our children not only from violence and from second hand smoke, but from commercial pressures on them to eat unhealthy food that will undermine their health, learning and well being.

The advertising industry was wildly exaggerating the actual provisions in the bill, Ms Kedgley says.

"There is one clause that allows regulations to reduce risk factors associated with non-communicable diseases. Such powers are essential if we are to turn around our current environment so that messages promoting unhealthy food are no longer so completely dominant. It would be easier for parents to encourage healthy eating habits if their children weren't constantly bombarded with messages telling them to do the opposite."

The need for such regulations was strongly supported by most submitters in the recent Health Select Committee inquiry into Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, Ms Kedgley says.

"It would be difficult for government to implement the recommendations of the select committee inquiry without such provisions."


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