Tax dollars underwrite junk-food marketing to kids

Ask anyone, and “protecting our kids” is one of our highest values — we have child endangerment laws, and even well into their teens, we ignore their “consent” for some behaviors because we don’t think they’re old enough to know better.

But we only worry about intrusions on their bodies, not their minds.

As staid a member of the establishment as the American Psychiatric Association has been campaigning for years to protect children from the effects of marketing directed at them, but collectively, we’ve shown no interest. Those motivated by money — corporations and their Congressional minions — maintain that such a curb would infringe on the First Amendment right to free speech.

Now we’re talking values.

This is trod ground, of course, but in a podcast by Kelly Brownell and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, Harvard health sociology professor Steven Gortmaker points out that we actually subsidize the marketing of junk food to kids! I had never made the connection, though of course,  marketing is considered a legitimate business expense and therefore its costs can be written off. (Apparently, it's only a realization to me: Marion Nestle made the same point in a Wall Street Journal debate just Tuesday.)

Gortmaker was speaking in the context of cost-effective measures that would reduce kids’ junk-food intake, but I was stunned just by the first part. Corporations can save money — increasing your tax burden and mine, relatively speaking — by manipulating 2- and 3-year-olds into badgering parents for Happy Meals and Fruit Roll-ups.

Is that a value anyone can get behind?

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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