Monday, March 30, 2015

Obesity and Advertisement

Advertisements have become a daily part of our lives.   They are on buildings, billboards, televisions, radios, social media sites , and anywhere someone can buy space.  They become a part of our subconscious; children are even more susceptible to this advertising.   Children are exposed to almost 30,000 food related advertisements a year, and this has been known to shape the eating habits of these children.

Yet, companies have the right to advertise their food under the First Amendment.   Not only is it protected under the First Amendment, but also it is smart business practice to advertise their products in so many ways.  After all, visibility of a product, sells the product.
 Yet, the scales are still climbing higher, which leads to the question, should the government regulate the advertising produced by the food industry?

Unfortunately, the answer is not an easy one nor should it be.    Companies target children, especially small children, because they are young and impressionable. They want to build a customer base from a young age and build a loyal customer base.  After all, more customers mean more money.  This is a business model for almost every industry, not just the food industry.  Punishing a corporation for a successful business model seems rather extreme and could potentially backfire on the prosperity of our food industry.   Yet, there are children that get hooked on food that will only add unhealthy and unusable calories.  Approximately 20% of children in the United States are now overweight. An unhealthy lifestyle leads to more physical problems later on in life which means more money spent on health care.

Some people call for advertising to children to be controlled more by the government.  This type of control would limit the type of advertising that targets children.  This would include following some European models which limit advertisements from “talking” to the children: advertisements can be directed at adults only.  Furthermore, a ban on product placement of junk foods in children programming has been proposed. 

However, there are some middle ground solutions that could be more beneficial.  One would be to allow the advertisements to continue but trying to counter act these advertisements by federal and state government sponsored programs that talk about healthy nutrition.  Another would be to moderate the amount of advertisement that is allowed in schools.  This idea has been coupled with legislation to stop schools from selling low-nutrition food in public schools.
A more industry friendly suggestion is for parents to monitor the amount of the television that their children are watching; overall this would limit the amount of advertisements that a child will be exposed too.   The food industry gets to advertise as much as they want, and childhood obesity will be blamed on parents rather than advertisement.

There is no doubt a crisis with our children.  Their eating habits include incredibly high amounts of junk food which in turn increases the obesity problem with children then adults.  Yet, the blame can be sprinkled upon the shoulders of many, but it needs to be reversed before this generation of children gets to adulthood.  If not, then we are looking a whole new host of problems in the future.   A simple solution would be to combine forces of these issues.  Parents should monitor their children’s television intake, and the food industry should pull back on the intense advertising towards children.  Schools should teach children about nutrition.  All of these forces combined will propel the children into better choices and habits.

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