Should junk food ads be banned from television shows directed at children? Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal thinks so. On Monday, he joined three other senators in writing a letter to the station requesting that they introduce a clear policy to help address the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic.
In my new book, Why Can’t My Child Stop Eating?, I address the issue of advertising’s influence on children.
While it’s nearly impossible to prove that advertising is the only cause of childhood obesity, there have been several studies showing that television does influence children’s behavior. In his letter, Senator Blumenthal talks about a 2006 Institute of Medicine report requested by Congress, which found that television advertisements influenced children’s food and beverage preferences and the requests they make to their parents. And there are others that have proven this idea.
In Chapter Three of my book, I discuss the idea of pairing unhealthy foods with promotional games that are advertised regularly during children’s television shows. I also point out that the sheer volume of advertisements that children are exposed to intensifies their desire for these foods. Most experts agree that children see about 40,000 commercials each year. Think about how powerful that is.
So, even though at first it may seem drastic, I support the idea of banning unhealthy food advertisements from children’s programs. If, we as a society don’t believe in the power of advertising then why aren’t there alcohol and cigarette ads directed at children? If advertising doesn’t influence them, it wouldn’t matter, right?