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Calls to restrict fossil fuel advertising in the name of public health

18 July 2022 at 1:54 pm
Danielle Kutchel
Calls for a ban in Australia comes as hundreds of people die of heat-related causes in a heat wave across western Europe.

Danielle Kutchel | 18 July 2022 at 1:54 pm


Calls to restrict fossil fuel advertising in the name of public health
18 July 2022 at 1:54 pm

Calls for a ban in Australia comes as hundreds of people die of heat-related causes in a heat wave across western Europe.

A group of almost 200 health professionals and organisations is calling for a tobacco-style ban on fossil fuel advertisements.

An open letter signed by 195 health professionals, including surgeons, GPs, nurses, and professors of public health from Australia’s major universities, was sent to the prime minister and every mayor in the country last week, calling on other cities and councils, as well as the state and federal governments, to ban fossil fuel advertising to protect the lives of all Australians.

Signatories to the letter include the Australian Healthcare and Hospital Association, Australasian Epidemiological Association, Australian Federation of Medical Women, Medical Scientists Association of Victoria and Doctors for the Environment Australia.

The Fossil Ad Ban campaign has been initiated by Comms Declare, a coalition for positive climate action from the communication, creative and advertising sector.

According to the campaign, fossil fuel companies spend over $200 million each year on advertising across platforms including radio, billboards and digital.

The campaign calls for fossil fuel advertising to be subject to the same restrictions as tobacco, gambling, and alcohol, citing their negative impact on public health.

Comms Declare founder Belinda Noble said Australia had been a world leader in restricting tobacco advertising and could do the same for fossil fuels.

“There is already global action underway with restrictions imposed in France, Amsterdam and several UK councils, as well as similar restrictions being debated in the EU, USA, Germany, Sweden and Canada. And a quarter of a million people have signed a European Citizen’s Initiative to ban fossil fuel ads and sponsorships across Europe,” she said.

“We now have a government that is committed to acting on climate change and banning fossil fuel advertising is an obvious next step for them to acknowledge the significant health impact climate change is already having on our children and community.” 

Tobacco ban campaigner and emeritus professor from Sydney School of Public Health, Simon Chapman, compared the harm caused by fossil fuels to that caused by tobacco and said marketing of fossil fuels should not be allowed to continue.

“Tobacco advertising is banned in most nations because smoking kills two in every three of its long term users: eight million people a year worldwide. But this number is chicken-feed when we consider the existential threat to generations to come of unabated climate change this century caused by frequent extreme weather events, crop failure, conflict caused by population displacement and more,” he said.

“How can we continue to allow the rampant marketing of fossil fuel emitting energy sources to continue when we know what the impact will be and what is at stake?”

The campaign comes as Europe faces an unprecedented heat wave, which has already caused hundreds of deaths, according to local media reports.

Climate Action Health Alliance CEO Roland Sapsford said fossil fuels harmed the climate from their mining through to their burning.

“As leading health professionals have said, we need to bring the fossil fuel industry in line with other restricted products. Allowing fossil corporations free rein to promote their harmful products is the last thing people need on the journey to a healthier future,” he said.

Ear, nose and throat surgeon and founder of Vote Earth Now Professor Rob Eisenberg said voters had shown at the recent federal election that they supported stronger action on climate change.

“This is a clear way forward for governments at all levels to enact change,” he said of the fossil fuel ad ban.

Danielle Kutchel  |  @ProBonoNews

Danielle is a journalist specialising in disability and CALD issues, and social justice reporting. Reach her on or on Twitter @D_Kutchel.

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