The American Academy of Pediatrics journal Pediatrics has published a new study by one of its members, Victor Strasburger, MD*, that urges a total ban on so-called junk-food ads targeting children. His rationale:
[A]ds for junk food and fast food increase kids’ desire for these foods. Studies also have shown that snacking increases while watching TV or movies. And late-night screen time can interfere with sleep, which puts kids at higher risk for obesity.
If the first point is true, then ads for toys increase desire for toys, ads for books increase desire for books, ads for diapers increase the desire to read this study, and only parents buy these things for kids. If the first point above was absurd, the second and third points are so flimsy as to need no refutation.
Naturally, this inanity seems to have gained traction from the usual corners. Today's N.Y. Post cites noted food scold and Yale anti-obesity advocate Kelly Brownell in support of the ban. Brownell laments the so-called "massive marketing of the worst foods, even to children under age 5." He calls it "toxic and until it stops there is little hope of dealing with obesity."
I'm willing to wager that no four-year-old in this country has ever worked to earn a few dollars and gone to the store with that money to buy a box of Cocoa Puffs. It's never happened. Parents in this country buy foods for young kids. Period. End of story. And Brownell is completely wrong to suggest otherwise. If I'm wrong, I urge Brownell to please correct me here.
Unfortunately the thinkers over at Time have taken the bait:
[A] Japanese study found that children who watched more TV at age three were more likely to be overweight at age six.
The culprit: advertising for unhealthy foods.
This whole tired argument is really nothing new at all. The FTC itself was pushing this same agenda in the 1970s, with the backing of groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
*You may know Strasburger as a Harvard-trained MD. You probably don't know him as author (PDF) of the 1974 "comic novel" Rounding Third and Heading Home, which "introduces a virginal 17-year-old named Carter Philips, hard-pressed to cope with the problems of life and love."