When I was a kid, I watched a lot of TV and absorbed the commercials like a sponge. I remember that whenever a fast food commercial would come on, I would feel almost a physical ache of want as the camera showed glistening burgers and melty rivers of cheese. It was food porn, and I could not look away. Sometimes after the advent of remote controls, I would mute the commercials, but even the silent images held me in their thrall. It was a burger. A burger that I did not have. No matter that I knew darn well that the real stuff never really looked as good as the commercials, the damage was done. I did deserve a break today. I needed it my way. The answer to the question "Where's the beef?" was "Not in my hand, thank you for pointing that out."
Is there really such a thing as healthy fast food?
And even now in my thirties, I am constantly fighting with my fast food urges. When I travel, I have to check out the exotic local drive-thrus, just because it's my only opportunity to get In-n-Out Burger or Chick-fil-A. Esteban sneers at the fact that I can be a snooty gourmand one minute, demanding truffle salt and imported Irish butter and then debase myself by eating who knows what out of a waxed paper wrapper. I know, I know. It doesn't make sense.
Interestingly enough, a study has found that the presence of fast food ads is connected to the rate of obesity in children, and that banning fast food ads during children's programming would reduce the incidence of obesity among children by as much as 18%:
The study measured the number of fast-food ads kids watched and found a fast-food TV-ad ban for children's programming would reduce the number of overweight children aged 3 to 11 by 18%, and for adolescents (12- to 18-year-olds) by 14%. Data also revealed a more pronounced effect on males than females.
Sweden and Norway instituted bans on all ads to children in the early 1990s, but the legislation sought to avoid exploitation rather than prevent obesity. Quebec has banned food advertising to children during programs geared toward kids, and the Canadian province has shown lower childhood obesity rates than surrounding areas, although there may be a variety of contributing factors. (Source)
I rarely watch commercials now, mostly because my television viewing is all filtered through a TiVo with a handy fast-forward button, but I do believe that I was much more susceptible to the powers of advertising during those years than I am today. Are these things related? I'm not surprised if they were. But at the same time, I'm not entirely certain I want to put fast food into the same arena as cigarettes and alcohol. Then again, McDonald's has built an empire through the early indoctrination (and some would suggest, manipulation) of children. If we're going to ban advertising around children's programming, then perhaps we should also look at promotional tie-ins. After all, Disney is just as much to blame for your kids' addiction to Happy Meals as McDonald's is, right? (Obesity level among kids has leveled out but they're still in trouble.)
What do you think? Should there be increased regulation against fast food commercials during children's programming?
Related:Rachael Ray wants your 8-year-old to cook you dinner.
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