Companies make substantial profits from unethical marketing and promoting unhealthy commodities, including gambling, formula milk, fast and ultra-processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, alcohol and tobacco (including e-cigarettes). All of which are a major cause of chronic disease and health inequities. Children’s large and growing online exposure, while bringing benefits for information access and social support, also exposes them to exploitation, as well as to bullying, gambling and grooming by criminals and sexual abusers, according to a WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission study from 2020.
To support the COVID-19 economic recovery, smarter incentives, and disincentives must be considered to raise revenue. In parallel, such fiscal policies and marketing restrictions are likely to deliver the greatest possible health impact in reducing illness, disability and premature death from chronic diseases.
By introducing tax increases on tobacco (up 30%), alcohol (up 30%) and unhealthy foods and beverages (up 20%), alongside mandatory salt limits on processed foods, it has been estimated that more than $6 billion of net savings could be made to the health system through a reduction in direct healthcare costs.
Promoting unhealthy products is widespread and increasing. Australian children are exposed to severe threats from the commercial sector, by marketing that exploits their vulnerability, by governments not regulating products that harm their growth and development, and by use of their data and images without their knowledge and permission.
- Implementation of a minimum 20% health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages
- Implementation of volumetric tax across all alcohol products and minimum price per standard drink or “minimum unit pricing”
- Equalisation of excise and customs duty of Roll Your Own tobacco products to equalise the tax applied to this form of tobacco with “factory made cigarettes”.