Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Children's Junk Food Ad Ban in Ontario?

We're one step closer.

Yesterday Ontario New Democrat Rosario Marchese introduced a private members bill that if passed would ban advertising of food and drinks to children under 13.

Proponents of the bill (myself included) recognize that banning advertising to children is a good idea in and of itself given that studies have proven that children (especially children under the age of 6), are unable to discern the difference between truth and advertising, and that there's simply no need to enable Big Food to hoodwink our kids into thinking junk food is healthy.

So who would be against this bill? Well Big Food and marketers.

Guess what?

In the media today you're going to see quotes from two organizations, a group shadily entitled, "The Concerned Children's Advertisers" which is an industry organization representing the interests of 16 Big Food corporations including General Mills, Kraft, Coca Cola and Pepsi and another group entitled the, "Media-Awareness Network" representing the interests of founding member Bell and supporter CTVGlobemedia.

What will they be saying about the proposed ad ban?

They'll be saying that:

  • There's no proof it'll help

  • In our day and age with the internet and satellite television even if we ban it in Ontario, it'll still trickle in

  • That Big Food has already voluntarily reduced targeted children's advertising

  • My take on those arguments?

    1. There's no proof it'll help because it hasn't been done (except in Quebec where albeit minimally, they have the lowest rate of childhood obesity in the country) and frankly given the inability of young children to see the difference between truth and advertising, it doesn't matter. We shouldn't allow folks to prey on our children's innocence. Furthermore, the argument's longer version is the, "obesity it too complex to blame on one thing" argument which then effectively paralyzes action. As I've mentioned before, "no single raindrop thinks it's responsible for the flood". Junk food ads are certainly one fat raindrop.

    2. Yes, there are still satellite televisions and the internet - so what? There's a heck of a lot of hard core pornography on the internet too, doesn't mean I want my kids watching commercials for it. Furthermore, as we're seeing with calls to ban trans-fats and post calories on menus, these types of things have a tendency to build on themselves.

    3. Big Food's voluntary reduction? Read my post on their fantabulous initiative by clicking here.

    Perhaps MPP Marchese said it best in a quote from an article in the Toronto Star,
    "Some children's advertisers claim that you can't put a fence around the ocean to protect children. We're not trying to put a fence around the ocean, we're simply putting lifeguards on the beach where our children are just learning to swim."
    What can you do?

    Well if you live in Ontario you can contact your MPP and let them know that in fact your support Mr. Marchese's bill. If our MPPs feel there's enough public support, maybe, just maybe, the Trix rabbit will die.

    (For a list of Ontario MPPs click here. If you don't know your electoral district you can click here. Unfortunately the government's postal code MPP search is down)