Exploring the volume and type of unhealthy advertising in close proximity to schools: An audit of bus shelter advertising in one mid-sized Canadian city


  • Laura J Kennedy Dalhousie University
  • Dan Steeves Nova Scotia Health
  • Rose Walls Nova Scotia Health
  • Hannah Pierce Cancer Council, Western Australia
  • Melissa Stoneham Curtin University




commercial determinants of health, bus shelter advertising, gambling advertising, alcohol advertising, obesity, child health, Nova Scotia


Background: Unhealthy advertising influences the attitudes and behaviour of children. Child exposure to products such as alcohol and fast food have been linked to adverse health problems, such as heavy drinking and obesity. Bus shelter advertisements are a potential exposure site for unhealthy advertising for children as they take municipal transit to and from school. This study explores the volume and type of unhealthy advertising at bus shelters within close proximity to schools in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Methods: In Halifax, Nova Scotia, 55 bus shelters with advertising were within a 500-metre distance of an elementary, junior, or high school. Three audits occurred in October 2020 (Fall), January 2021 (Winter), and April 2021 (Spring). Advertisements were coded as unhealthy if containing alcohol or gambling promotions. Food promotions were classified as maximum (healthy), moderate, or minimum (unhealthy) nutrition. Results: In total, 319 bus shelter advertisements were collected across three audits. Of these, 14.4% of advertisements were unhealthy (n = 46), and less than 1% (n = 3) were classified as healthy. For the unhealthy advertising, 37.0% (n = 17) of advertisements promoted gambling, 32.6% (n = 15) advertised food, 21.7% (n = 10) advertised non-alcohol beverages, and 8.7% (n = 4) advertised alcohol. The majority of advertisements (n = 270; 84.6%) were classified as other. Implications: Children are potentially exposed to unhealthy advertising as they travel to and from school in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Further research is needed to understand how and when children are exposed to these types of advertising. Municipalities can consider implementing further bylaws and administrative orders that create supportive environments for children and youth.


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