We’re winding down the last days of 2014 and looking ahead to a fresh new year. Dr. Alan Greene invited me to contribute a guest post in the series “One Thing I’d Change in 2015.” Here’s what I chose, why I chose it, and how you can help make it happen:
The one change I’d like to see take place in 2015 is an end to the marketing of junk food to kids. Most people would agree that products which are engineered to be addictive shouldn’t be marketed to children. This is why we no longer put up with Joe Camel trying to convince children that smoking is cool. It’s now time to rethink the Coca-Cola polar bear telling them that soda is happiness or letting Ronald McDonald use schools as ads.
Lessons from the Tobacco Fight
Current youth smoking rates would be much higher if advocates had relied on asking for more marketing of healthy choices instead of calling for an end to the marketing of cigarettes to children. Today’s advocates face a similar choice between focusing our efforts on more marketing of healthy choices or calling for an end to junk food marketing to children. Future rates of diet-related disease will depend on us getting this right and not just settling for the path of least resistance.
Fortunately, more organizations are recognizing the role junk food marketing to kids is playing in the rise of diet-related chronic diseases and are asking for meaningful change. At the American Public Health Association’s 2014 Annual Meeting, the American Heart Association (AHA) made this statement:
The AHA sees no ethical, political, scientific, or social justification for marketing low-nutrient, high calorie foods to kids.
Restrictions on marketing to children was one of the government regulatory approaches recommended by international health experts in a recent letter to the World Health Organization. The issue of junk food marketing to children was also included as a critical component of Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Ricardo Salvador and Olivier De Schutter’s call for a national food policy. A new report from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity recommends beverage companies stop marketing sugary drinks and energy drinks to children and teens:
They cannot market unhealthy products directly to children and teens and then put the onus on consumers (especially more vulnerable youth) to select the healthier options
Enough is Enough
I saw this play out in my own home the other night with a Santa Claus Coca-Cola commercial on the Charlie Brown Christmas Special my kids were watching. It’s just another example of how they say they don’t market to children but do otherwise. When the McDonald’s CEO says, “We don’t put Ronald out in schools” it doesn’t take much searching to see this is patently false. As author Michael Prager put it, “Why are we allowing marketers to spend $15 billion a year screwing with kids’ minds?” The backlash against junk food companies marketing to children is long overdue and may 2015 be the year we say enough is enough.
Want to help bring an end to junk food marketing to kids?
Here are ways to help:
Watch “We’re Not Buying It” and boycott companies that market junk food to children
Please share other ways to take action in the comments section below.