Ban On Fast Food TV Advertising Would Reverse Childhood Obesity Trends, Study Shows
on fast food advertisements in the United States could reduce the
number of overweight children by as much as 18 percent, according to a
new study being published this month in the Journal of Law and
Economics. The study also reports that eliminating the tax
deductibility associated with television advertising would result in a
reduction of childhood obesity, though in smaller numbers.
study was conducted by researchers from the National Bureau of Economic
Research (NBER) with funding from the National Institutes of Health.
NBER economists Shin-Yi Chou of Lehigh University, Inas Rashad of
Georgia State University, and Michael Grossman of City University of
New York Graduate Center co-authored the paper, which measures the
number of hours of fast food television advertising messages viewed by
children on a weekly basis.
authors found that a ban on fast food television advertisements during
children's programming would reduce the number of overweight children
ages 3-11 by 18 percent, while also lowering the number of overweight
adolescents ages 12-18 by 14 percent. The effect is more pronounced for
males than females.
a ban would be effective, the authors also question whether such a high
degree of government involvement—and the costs of implementing
such policies—is a practical option. Should the U.S. pursue that
path, they would follow Sweden, Norway and Finland as the only
countries to have banned commercial sponsorship of children's programs.
have known for some time that childhood obesity has gripped our
culture, but little empirical research has been done that identifies
television advertising as a possible cause," says Chou, the Frank L.
Magee Distinguished Professor at Lehigh's College of Business and
Economics. "Hopefully, this line of research can lead to a serious
discussion about the type of policies that can curb America's obesity
study also found that the elimination of tax deductibility tied to
advertising would similarly produce declines in childhood obesity,
albeit at a smaller rate of 5-7 percent. Advertising is considered a
business expense and, as such, it can be used to reduce a company's
taxable income. The authors deduce that, since the corporate income tax
rate is 35 percent, the elimination of the tax deductibility of food
advertising costs would be equivalent to increasing the price of
advertising by 54 percent.
an action would consequently result in the reduction of fast food
advertising messages by 40 percent for children, and 33 percent for
study—the largest of its kind to directly tie childhood obesity
to fast food advertising on American television—is based on the
viewing habits of nearly 13,000 children using data from the 1979
Child-Young Adult National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and the 1997
National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, both issued by the U.S.
Department of Labor.
report issued by the Institute of Medicine indicated there is
compelling evidence linking food advertising on television and
increased childhood obesity. "Some members of the committee that wrote
the report recommended congressional regulation of television food
advertisements aimed at children, but the report also said that the
final link that would definitively prove that children had become
fatter by watching food commercials aimed at them cannot be made," says
"Our study provides evidence of that link," he says.
Centers for Disease Control estimate that, between 1970 and 1999, the
percentage of overweight children ages 6-11 more than tripled to 13
percent. Adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 also saw a
significant increase, reaching 14 percent.
indicates that there is an 80 percent chance an overweight adolescent
will be an obeseadult and that over 300,000 deaths can be attributed to
obesity and weight in the United States every year.
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