Should there be a ban on advertising fast food to kids? My answer may surprise you.
Absolutely not. There should not be a ban, and here are 8 reasons why:
1) We have a free market economy, and soda and fries are not restricted or illegal items.
In fact, you can buy them with taxpayer funded money (SNAP) as long as you get it at the grocery store and not at a restaurant. Should we expand government to police where we eat our fries, or should we limit government and allow people to make their own choices?
2) It’s not the same as a ban on advertising tobacco to children.
I’ve seen this argument in a few places, “We don’t advertise cigarettes to kids, we shouldn’t advertise fast food to kids.” This is a false argument. It’s illegal for children to have or use tobacco. Not so with chicken nuggets, fries, or Hi-C fruit punch. The ban on tobacco advertising covers all tobacco products.
A ban on fast food advertising to children only affects “fast food restaurants”, not other restaurants, food carts, or grocery stores. It’s not fair to say that McDonald’s can’t advertise Coke to kids, but Walmart can. Burger King won’t be able to offer kid meals, but Chili’s would. How does that help?
3) Parents must take responsibility and have the right to choose what their children eat.
The children are not driving themselves through the drive thru, and the children aren’t forking over cash for it. We might disagree with other parent’s choices, just as they might disagree with our choice to not vaccinate. Fundamentally, though, parental rights are sovereign and parents have the basic right to choose what to feed their children. Just as parents have the right to feed their kids raw milk, others have the right to buy their children a Happy Meal.
4) It’s discriminatory.
We would see a place where Walmart can market soda and frozen nuggets to children, while the McDonald’s inside that same Walmart could not. If fast food restaurants can’t advertise to children, would this mean sit down restaurants would not be able to offer a “kid’s menu”? We would add new regulations (What is “fast food”? What counts as advertising to children, exactly? What new governmental agency will be in charge of enforcing compliance?) without effecting real results. Why would we not see any results?
5) The effort is misplaced.
The fact is, most of the unhealthy foods a child consumes comes from the grocery store- especially in the most vulnerable populations, those on SNAP (food stamps). If the goal is to really change the way children eat every day, and make a long term lasting impact, then we should be spending our time and effort to clean up the cereal, processed food, and “kid friendly” food aisles at the store. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) for example, is in a ton of foods (not just pop!) Transfats still abound. Soy fillers, genetically modified organisms (GMO), MSG, and artificial dyes fill the aisles of “kid food”- chicken nuggets, soups, “fruit” snacks,
6) It’s subject to fads.
For a long time, butter was shamed as “unhealthy” while margarine and butter substitutes were pushed as heart-healthy alternatives. We now know that the transfats in margarine are some of the worst things you can eat. Every day, government revises previous thoughts, pulls medicines off the market that it initially approved, or considers regulatory change. It’s not the government’s place to vilify foods. What if they decide that bacon is bad for you? Or that genetically modified salmon is good for you? (Oh, wait.)
7) Not All Fast Food is Created Equal
A hamburger Happy Meal served with milk and apple slices in not necessarily a bad choice. For example, there aren’t any food dyes or artificial sweeteners in such a meal, even if some portions of the meal are highly processed. The patty is likely all beef, not filled with GMO soy filler. It’s certainly better than many school lunches and school breakfasts.
8) Play Areas in Restaurants Serve an Important Purpose
An issue I have not seen addressed is how McDonald’s attracts families to their restaurants with their PlayPlaces. In many communities, this is the only safe place for children to run and play. In some climates, PlayPlaces might be the only place kids can play in extreme weather. Whether you like it or not, McDonald’s has filled a void in the community when public parks may no longer be safe for families and inclement weather stirs up cabin fever. A ban on advertising to children which included PlayPlaces would be detrimental to communities.
What do you think? Do you think I have a point or am I totally off base?