Doctors want to end junk food ads on television


It’s not bad enough that when children are watching television, they are engaging in sedentary behavior rather than more physical pursuits. On top of that, they also tend to snack on the unhealthy food that is being pitched to them on the programs they are watching, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Among AAP’s suggestions: A ban on junk food ads.

Additionally, in addition to preventing active exercise and encouraging snacking, late night television viewing also inhibits getting enough sleep, which is said to be another contributor to the obesity epidemic.

The study’s lead author Victor Strasburger commented, “We’ve created a perfect storm for childhood obesity – media, advertising, and inactivity. American society couldn’t do a worse job at the moment of keeping children fit and healthy – too much TV, too many food ads, not enough exercise, and not enough sleep.”

AAP makes a number of recommendations aimed at parents. Then it goes on to make the following recommendations aimed at legislators and regulators:

* a ban on junk food advertising;

* restrictions on interactive food advertising to children via digital media;

* funding for research into the health and psychosocial effects of heavy media use in children; and

* more prosocial media platforms and resources for children that encourage them to choose healthy foods.

“Thirty years ago, the federal government ruled that young children are psychologically defenseless against advertising. Now, kids see 5,000 to 10,000 food ads per year, most of them for junk food and fast food,” said Dr. Strasburger.

The information comes in an article from the July issue of Pediatrics.

RBR-TVBR observation: A number of heavy-hitting food companies have been trying to limit their children’s advertising to healthy options in a voluntary effort to head off government regulation. But the issue hasn’t gone away, nor is it ever likely to.

It pits the desire of inside-the-Beltway types to protect our children and collect publicity bonus points for doing so against businesses trying to make a profit and thus help an ailing economy, not to mention the First Amendment.

It is a classic Washington zombie issue that cannot die. This study kicks the ball forward in terms of the calendar, and you can bet your bottom dollar that a) nothing will be done about this anytime soon from a regulatory standpoint; and b) soon enough, someone else will come along and kick the ball forward some more.