Will Restricting Junk Food Ads Really Make Kids Healthier?S

Two Senators have proposed a bill that would bar companies from advertising junk food to kids. According to Double X, it's "bound to be popular with voters" — but is curbing ads really the way to improve kids' health?

Double X's KJ Dell'Antonia writes,

Senators Jim Moran (Va.) and Bill Pascrell (N.J.) have introduced the Healthy Kids Act, which proposes "specifying categories of foods and beverages for or about which any advertisement, promotion, or marketing directed at children and youth shall be an abusive, unfair, or deceptive act" and limiting advertising for certain other foods and beverages-presumably the slightly less objectionable ones-to two minutes an hour on weekends, three on weekdays.

It's true that limiting advertising directed at children, like increasing the penalties for sex offenders, is a perennially popular measure. Few parents haven't heard their kids beg for Koala Yummies* after catching a TV commercial, and some research suggests that kids' eating habits are influenced by what they watch. Dell'Antonia points out that without regulation, companies have every incentive to keep pushing Miley-Cyrus-shaped-mac-and-cheese-whatevers** on undiscerning little brains, and that limiting said pushing is thus "good policy." It may be true that restricting advertising might reduce some kids' cravings for salt, sugar, and yellow no. 5, but Dell'Antonia also identified a much bigger culprit for children unhealthy eating habits: the government. She writes,

In September, Michael Pollan noted in an editorial in the NYT that, with the proposed health care bill, the federal government is "putting itself in the uncomfortable position of subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup." The Healthy Kids Act would have that same government encouraging the production of foods and beverages containing high-fructose corn syrup, but discouraging their consumption. It seems cynical to call that progress, but I guess we'll have to take what we can get.

Until farm subsidies quit making Industrial Grade Fructose SnaxTM artificially cheap, it may not matter much whether advertisers make them artificially attractive. So rather than trying to keep kids in the dark about all the delicious varieties of corn syrup glutting supermarket shelves, maybe we should concentrate on filling those shelves with brussels sprouts instead, via agricultural that encourage farmers to grow food that doesn't make you die. Then TV regulators can worry about what really matters — why the women on kids shows are so hot these days.

* Are these still around? They were delicious.
** I don't know what kids are eating these days. Get off my lawn.

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