Study reveals school kids are bombarded by unhealthy ads


Download the study report

Cancer Council WA is calling for urgent State Government action as a new study[1] shows that WA school kids are being bombarded with unhealthy food advertising on public transport on their way to school every day.

Curtin University’s WA Cancer Prevention Research Unit and Cancer Council WA collected data around five Perth metropolitan high schools on the first day of school for 2020, as well as the Perth train station which is used by thousands of students to commute to school daily.

The study recorded the advertisements on buses which came in and out school zones at Churchlands Senior High School, Kent Street Senior High School, the brand new inner city Bob Hawke College, Shenton College and John Forrest Secondary College, and the ads displayed at Perth train station.

A total of 90 ads were recorded across the buses arriving at the five schools and the train station between 8am and 9am. Of these, 35% were ads for food or drink, of which 77% were classified as unhealthy (junk food and sugary drinks).

Cancer Council WA’s Obesity Prevention Manager Kelly Kennington said: “The study shows that kids are exposed to a massive volume of junk food advertising on their way to school, and given we know teenagers are the biggest consumers of junk food and sugary drinks, clearly this advertising is working.

“Recent data from the World Cancer Research Fund showed kids’ exposure to unhealthy advertising is directly linked to an increase in kilojoule consumption[2], which illustrates just how advertising influences food choices.

“The fact that the junk food industry is able to use taxpayer-funded public transport to promote their unhealthy products to kids is wrong.

“We’re calling on the State Government to ban unhealthy advertising on public transport such as buses, trains and train stations to stop enabling the junk food industry to recruit teenage customers.

“WA has already shown leadership in Australia by restricting alcohol advertising on Government-owned buses, trains and train stations, so there is no reason why they can’t extend the restriction to junk food and on all Government-owned assets.

“There is huge public support for getting junk food off public transport, with a Cancer Council survey conducted late in 2019 showing that 72% of WA adults supported such a move.”

The results are being released ahead of a larger study being funded by Cancer Council WA, conducted in partnership with Telethon Kids Institute.



  • Currently in WA, just over one-quarter (26.3%) of children are overweight or obese.
  • A ban on unhealthy food and drink promotions on all state premises is one of the recommendations in the Sustainable Health Review Final Report released by the State Government in 2019 but so far little progress has been made on this.
  • In WA, there are currently no regulations restricting advertising of unhealthy food around schools.
  • Consumption of unhealthy food and sugary drinks increases toxic fat, which puts people at risk of 13 types of cancer.
  • Obesity related illness is set to cost WA hospitals $488 million a year by 2021.[3]

[1] Talati, Z., Sartori, A., Hart, E., (2020). Food advertising on school buses. WA Cancer Prevention Unit (WACPRU), Curtin University, Perth

[2] World Cancer Research Fund (2020), Building momentum:

[3] The cost of excess body mass to the acute hospital system in Western Australia (2011) and publications/PDF/Obesity_costing_report.pdf