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On Food Advertising Directed Towards Children

2201 words - 9 pages

Legislation regulating television advertising involving foods with little or no nutritional value that targets children under the age of 9 should be introduced into the U.S. Congress, passed, and signed into law because of increasing child obesity rates related to marketing high-calorie and low-nutrient food and beverages, the absence of policy within self-regulating organizations (SRO) to target commercials excessively marketing unhealthy foods to young children, and the inability of children under the age of 9 to critically evaluate the persuasive intent of carefully crafted television advertisements. According to a 2006 Institute of Medicine report and comprehensive study review entitled Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, children directly consume $27 billion a year in food and beverage purchases, and children are expected to influence close to $200 billion of total household food and beverage purchases per year (IOM, 153; Stitt & Kunkel, 573-575). Likewise, advertisers spend about $12 billion per year on food and beverage marketing to children (IOM, 172). Noting the huge market children constitute, it is apparent why the marketing efforts of brand name snack, cereal, and fast food companies are aggressively attempting to influence children to directly or indirectly purchase their products. According to the American Psychological Association's (APA) 2004 task force report on advertising to children, about 32% of 2-to-7-year-olds have a television in their bedroom (Kunkel et al., 2004, p. 3). That number goes to almost half (48%) when including all minors (2-to-18-year-olds). This gives advertisers a direct "cool" media inlet into the bedroom of over a third of U.S. children under 8 years old, which tends to be absent of parents, and thus unfiltered by any adult. This does not conclude anything directly, but it shows a shift from a family-centric television viewing atmosphere to a more private and vulnerable one.Child obesity in the U.S. has increased since the 1970's for all partitions of gender, class, and race. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines obesity as "body mass index (BMI) at or above the sex-and age-specific 95th percentile BMI cutoff points from the 2000 CDC Growth Charts (2008, p. 311)." The CDC reports that for 2-to-11-year-olds the obesity rates climb from 5.75% in the 1976-1980 survey to 14.7% in the 2003-2006 survey (CDC, 2009, p. 1). Just like tobacco advertising cannot be solely responsible for lung cancer, the case for unhealthy foods being marketed to children as a cause to childhood obesity needs the associations of advertising content, advertising frequency, and the nutrition of the food being advertised to deduct the reasoning and the intent of the marketing campaign. Dale Kunkel, Ph.D., an expert in the field of child psychology and advertising who has published many studies and papers relating to this topic since the mid-1980's, finds with Dr. Carmen Stitt in their 2008 study "Food...

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