Questionable ads help fuel kids’
health woes, group says
Monday, December 04, 2006
CHICAGO — Inappropriate advertising contributes to many of kids’ ills — including obesity, anorexia, underage drinking and having sex too soon — and Congress should crack down on it, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.
The doctors group issued a policy statement in response to what it calls a rising tide of advertising aimed at children. The policy appears in December’s Pediatrics, scheduled for release today.
“Young people view more than 40,000 ads per year on television alone and increasingly are being exposed to advertising on the Internet, in magazines, and in schools,” the policy statement says.
The statement cites examples such as TV commercials for sugary breakfast cereals and high-calorie snacks shown during children’s programs and ads for erectile-dysfunction drugs shown during televised sports.
The group also is critical of fast-food ads on educational TV shown in schools, magazine ads with stick-thin models, and toy and other product tie-ins between popular movie characters and fast-food restaurants.
The ads influence kids to eat poorly, and to think drinking is cool, sex is a recreational activity and anorexia is fashionable, the academy says.
The group says the federal government should:
• Ban junk-food ads during shows geared toward young children.
• Limit commercial advertising on children’s programming to no more than 6 minutes per hour.
• Restrict alcohol ads to showing only the product, not cartoon characters or attractive young women.
• Prohibit interactive digital TV advertising directed at children.
The academy said ads for erectile-dysfunction drugs should be shown only after 10 p.m.
Jeff Becker, president of the Beer Institute, an industry group for breweries, said parents have more influence than advertising on teens’ decisions to drink. He also said brewers work to ensure that beer ads appear in adultoriented media.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics is wrong to blame alcohol advertising for the actions of underage teens who willingly break the law to drink illegally,” he said.
Critics of advertising restrictions say it’s a free-speech issue. But the academy notes that several Western countries, including Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and Greece, limit ads directed at children.
Advertising aimed at children has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, particularly because of data showing that growing numbers of U.S. children are obese.
While hard scientific evidence linking advertising with children’s health ills is lacking, Dr. Victor Strasburger, lead author of the statement and an adolescent-medicine specialist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, said compelling circumstantial evidence suggests there is a connection.
Last year, the Institute of Medicine agreed that evidence suggesting that TV ads contribute to childhood obesity is compelling and said the food industry should market healthy products to kids. In September, the Federal Communications Commission said it will study potential links between TV ads and rising rates of obesity in U.S. children.