Why we must ban food advertising to children

Warshawski and Lewis: Why we must ban food advertising to children

Ottawa Citizen

Warshawski and Lewis

In the early days of the automobile, there were few rules of the road, let alone laws. People tried to figure it out as they went; many died doing so.

Eventually, it was decided drivers weren’t doing so well at regulating themselves for things such as speeding and impaired driving. Neither were car manufacturers, who would skimp on safety for higher profits. Laws – backed up by meaningful penalties – were necessary.

In fact, we’ve discovered that in most areas where people or companies are competing – be it for road space or market share – self-regulation doesn’t work. Most of our laws were created for that reason.

Which is why we applaud Sen. Nancy Greene Raine for her introduction last week of a bill in the Senate to prohibit the advertising of all food and beverages to children age 12 and under. We would prefer the senator’s bill would apply to children and youth 16 years and younger, but her proposal is a very good start.

The arguments for such a law are as clear as the need for traffic laws: to prevent harm to innocent Canadians. Far ahead of its time, Quebec since 1980 has banned the commercial advertising of all goods and services to children under 13. The result? A 2011 study concluded that the law is associated with a 13-per-cent reduction in the likelihood to purchase fast food and that “the social-welfare impact of such a ban can be significant.” Quebec has the lowest obesity rate in Canada among children age six to 11 and the highest rate of fruit and vegetable consumption. All this despite Quebec children having among the most sedentary lifestyles.

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