Can A Ban on Junk Food Ads Reduce Its Consumption?

Studies based on an experiment in Canada, show that a ban on ads that promote junk food among children is likely to cut down their consumption. The experiment took place in Quebec province where the government banned fast food ads between 1984 and 1992, resulting in the consumption of about 11-22 million fewer fast-food meals per year. This translated to 2.2-4.4 billion fewer calories consumed by children and a reduction by 13% of fast-food expenditures per week in each household, according to Kathy Baylis, an economist from the University of Illinois.

This raises certainty to the question of effectiveness of junk food and fast food ads targeted at children. As seen in previous studies, soft drink manufacturers were found to target minority children in their marketing strategies since Hispanic and African American children were found to consume far more sugar than their Caucasian counterparts. With already-genetic disadvantages like diabetes and heart disease, these targeted minority groups do not stand a chance in kicking the junk food and soft drink habit because of ad targeting.

This study done by Kathy Baylis and co-author Tirtha Dhar pointed out that advertising bans do work but the US would have to go to the extreme and put forth an outright ban covering the entire US media market in order for it to be the most effective policy tool for reducing junk food consumption in children. This is due to the fact that the bans work best when children live in an isolated media market.

Another question raised points to the influence of the internet among children. Because of the increased popularity of internet games, children may be spending more time in front of their computers instead of the TV set, which may lessen the effects of an ad ban. Ad bans would in turn have to be extended to website ads and beyond in order to be effective.

Yet, because of the success rate of lowered fast-food intake among kids, such measures may prove ideal and even necessary if the country indeed wishes to reduce the statistics of childhood obesity and weight-related illnesses that run rampant in the US.

Do you think there should be a junk food ad ban?

Photo: sean dreilinger

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