Last updated: April 19, 2012 - 4:07pm
[Commentary] Child obesity is a big and growing problem that's gaining increasing government attention. Unfortunately, the feds are poised to adopt ill-conceived regulations that won't help but might make the problem worse.
Get ready for severe new guidelines on food advertising to children. Last year, an interagency government task force proposed new "voluntary" guidelines on food marketing aimed at kids under 17 that defines prohibited foods so broadly that it would curtail advertising not only of Froot Loops and soda but also of Cheerios and yogurt. The task force acknowledges that "a large percentage of food products currently in the marketplace"—88 of the 100 most-advertised foods and drinks, according to the Association of National Advertisers—"would not meet the [guidelines]." Those guidelines are currently at the White House, where the administration faces heavy pressure from do-gooder types and the public-health lobby to approve them.
Restricting food advertising is a flawed approach to childhood obesity. The underlying causes of weight gain in children are the same as in their parents—eating too much and exercising too little. And academic research confirms what we sense from personal experience: Kids eat what their parents eat. If you sit down at the dinner table with a two-liter bottle of Coke, Jimmy won't ask for milk instead.
[Zywicki is a professor of law at George Mason University School of Law]
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