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Medical leaders urge fossil fuel promotion ban, like tobacco

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With millions of deaths globally, and over 5,000 in Australia alone, per year attributable to the burning of fossil fuels, leading health professionals and organisations across the country are demanding a ban on fossil fuel advertising in Australia from all levels of government, saying the industry should not be allowed to continue spending over $200 million per year to promote these toxic products to consumers.

Initiated by Comms Declare, a coalition for positive climate action from the communication, creative and advertising sector, the Fossil Ad Ban campaign aims to highlight the hypocrisy of the fossil fuel industry being allowed to market themselves unrestricted across airways, billboards and digital platforms as if they were any other consumer product despite the proven negative health impacts – when the tobacco, gambling, food and alcohol categories cannot for the same reason.

The campaign is already gaining momentum with support from leading health organisations including 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.

In March 2022, Yarra City became the first Council in Australia to move to restrict the promotion of fossil fuels on council-run property.

A 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 Australia today 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.

Individuals and communities across Australia are being encouraged to send a message of support for change to their local council via the fossiladban.org website. Comms Declare Founder, Belinda Noble said “Australia was a world leader in restricting tobacco advertising for the public good, and we can stop the promotion of high emission products for the same reason.

Comms Declare Founder, Belinda Noble.

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, U.S.A, 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.”

“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.” added Noble.

Tobacco ban campaigner, author and Emeritus Professor from Sydney School of Public Health Simon Chapman highlighted that “Tobacco advertising is banned in most nations because smoking kills 2 in every 3 of its long term users: 8 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. 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?”

Burning fossil fuels is the primary cause of global warming which is driving more intense and frequent heat waves, storms, bushfires and droughts. The impact this will have on human health and our medical systems cannot be underestimated. It is expected that climate change could cause around 83 million human deaths by 2100 if urgent action isn’t taken countless more will suffer long-term physical, economic and mental impacts of displacement, loss of life and loss of livelihoods.

Climate Action Health Alliance CEO Roland Sapsford commented, “Fossil fuels are hazardous to human health. From mining and refining through to burning, fossil fuels harm our climate and release toxic pollutants into our air, soil and waterways. We restrict alcohol and tobacco advertising and sponsorship for health reasons. 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.”

ENT Surgeon and founder of Vote Earth Now, Professor Rob Eisenberg said “Our laws are meant to protect the health and wellbeing of Australians. Tobacco advertising is banned because it damages lives and hurts our communities but one of the biggest threats Australians are facing this century is climate change. As this recent election has shown, voters across Australia want to see climate action and this is a clear way forward for governments at all levels to enact change.”

“Fossil fuel advertisements and sponsorships mislead consumers about dangerous and toxic products and grants corporations disproportionate influence over governments and community debate. The latest IPCC report confirmed that marketing and lobbying by coal, oil and gas corporations is delaying emissions reduction and has set the agenda in Australia.

Curbing this propaganda is essential if we are to rapidly move to cleaner energy and a healthier, safer future for all Australians.” added Noble.

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