It’s As Simple As Saying “No”

A new study on children’s advertising released by the Kaiser Family Foundation has food activists up in arms. And, as usual, some not-so-surprising statistics have spawned invasive policy proposals that completely ignore the role of parents in kids’ eating habits.The Kaiser study’s major findings are that half of advertising during children’s shows is devoted to food, and that a substantial portion of ads aimed at children and teenagers are for candy, snacks, cereal, or fast food. (Click here for the full report.) The accompanying press junket included some not-so-subtle threats of increased advertising restrictions from Senator Sam Brownback, and typical hand-wringing about the evils of the food industry from Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.But before we start banning ads that don’t promote broccoli or Brussels sprouts, here’s a reality check for parents: Kids are just that — kids. If you want your kids to stop watching television ads, turn off the TV. And if you don’t want them buying candy, don’t give them money to buy candy.A number of prominent opinion-makers have taken Kaiser’s results as proof of the decades-old "food ads cause kids to be fat" fallacy, most notably syndicated columnist Marie Cocco. But, as the federal government’s Institute of Medicine admitted in 2005 after concluding one of the most comprehensive investigations of the issue, "current evidence is not sufficient to arrive at any finding about a causal relationship from television advertising to [obesity] among children and youth."Moreover, as an editorial in Alabama’s TimesDaily noted today:

Food commercials haven’t changed much through the years. Fifty years ago, we were being encouraged to eat more Twinkies, buy sugar-coated cereal endorsed by Tony the Tiger and drink more Ovaltine to get a Captain Midnight Secret Decoder Ring …Given the opportunity, some well-meaning people would regulate the fun out of everything. As far as we are concerned, burgers, fries, Coke and ice cream cones are part of growing up.

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