My op-ed on the litigation against Big Cola (see Feb. 2) draws an L.A. Times reader letter (Feb. 7). Also welcome Andrew Sullivan readers (Jan. 27). More by Sullivan: “Hey, these adverts are making me fat”, The Times (U.K.), Jan. 29; blog posts including Jan. 25 and Jan. 26. And see Philip Wallach, “There Are Deeper Pockets than ‘Big Soda’”, The American Enterprise, Dec. 15; John Luik, “Sponge Bob, Wide Pants?”, TCS Daily, Jan. 25; and Rogier van Bakel, Jan. 23.
American children are now gaining weight even as they watch somewhat less commercial television than previous generations did. One study estimated that children saw about 15 percent fewer TV ads in 2003 than their counterparts did in 1994. Alas, that does not mean today’s kids are playing outside more. They simply have many more commercial-free alternatives such as premium cable, tapes and DVDs, and video and computer games.
Another unfortunate fact for advocates of regulating food advertising is that their pet idea has already been done to the max – that is, in the form of outright bans of ads targeting children – in places such as Sweden and Quebec. The obesity rate of Swedish children differs little from that of British children, however. The same is true in Quebec vs. other Canadian provinces.
The plaintiffs say it’s not about the money. I believe them. This lawsuit, which CSPI and its allies plan to file under a Massachusetts consumer protection statute prohibiting “unfair or deceptive acts or practices,” is really about censorship. By threatening onerous damages, CSPI aims to achieve through the courts what it has unsuccessfully demanded from legislators and regulators for decades: a ban on food advertising aimed at children.
Earlier, Sullum reported on the CDC venturing into West Virginia to stalk obesity “vectors” (“Watching the Detectives”, syndicated/Reason, Aug. 26).