Concerned about widespread childhood obesity, health advocates and politicians are intensifying pressure on the food industry to limit or even eliminate marketing targeted at children for sugary and fattening products.Setting aside Ms. Linn's sloppy exaggeration ("exponentially"), some other comments need to be made here.
Some companies already have responded by pulling ads during children's television programs. More broadly, the food industry will negotiate voluntary restrictions on ads with federal regulators this summer. But the industry also plans to lobby against legislation that would give the government the authority to restrict commercials during children's shows.
Food advertising to youngsters is big business, with the industry spending $10 billion last year trying to shape the tastes of children, according to congressional researchers. The marketing effort, with pop culture icons such as Ronald McDonald and Cap'n Crunch, has become one of the most contentious aspects of the nation's struggle with obesity.
Scientists have not found conclusive evidence that exposure to food advertising leads to childhood obesity, although a recent spate of studies has provided support for a link. The research has been enough to convince a wide spectrum of physicians and health advocates -- even the influential Institute of Medicine, a scientific group that advises Congress -- that food ads directed at children are partly to blame for the soaring number of overweight American children.
It is clear that children have extensive exposure to advertising. Recent studies estimated that the typical child views about 40,000 television ads annually, and more than half of child-targeted advertising is for candy, sugary cereals, or fast foods. Some health advocates contend that the reach of the ads has grown through the Internet, where many children play video games adorned with products, such as a golf game on a Nabisco site in which players aim at Oreo targets.
''Marketing to children has escalated exponentially since the 1980s, and its rise mirrors the rise of childhood obesity," said Susan Linn, a psychologist who is associate director of the Media Center at the Judge Baker Children's Center in Boston.
First, consuming more calories than are expended is what causes obesity.
Second, a more logical correlation for the past 20 years is the increase in TV watching and video game playing instead of outdoor physical activities.
Third, this timeframe corresponds nicely with the government's imposition of the carbohydrate-laden food pyramid on the American diet.
Fourth, if the kids are actually going out to buy the Bad Stuff they see advertised, where are they getting the money? In other words, WHERE ARE THE PARENTS? Ms. Linn suggests the answer at the end of the article:
Linn is skeptical of voluntary limits and she advocates a prohibition on marketing to children younger than 12. ''The message to kids is that these products will make them happy," Linn said. ''And what parent doesn't want to make their kids happy?"She doesn't appear interested in advocating parental responsibility. In fact, it seems like she's seeing the parents as victims as well.