Advertising Obesity: Can the U.S. Follow the Lead of the UK in Limiting Television Marketing of Unhealthy Foods to Children?
Childhood obesity has tripled in the U.S. since the 1970s, and television advertisement of unhealthy foods has been linked to the unhealthy eating habits of children. The United Kingdom, facing a similar problem, promulgated regulations in 2007 banning the advertisement of foods high in fat, sodium, and sugar during programming directed at children below age 16.
In the U.S., industry representatives, public policy advocates, and government officials are debating whether to rely on self-regulation efforts or to implement government-established guidelines. Industry representatives argue that government guidelines would do little to solve the childhood obesity problem and that the UK regulations did more damage than good. Advocates argue that these advertisements significantly encourage unhealthy eating habits. This Note compares the path such regulations would have to take in the U.S. as compared to that in the UK and analyzes the arguments for and against implementing UK-style regulations in the U.S. This Note concludes that American implementation of the UK’s limited restriction of such advertising is an appropriate step toward reversing the rate of childhood obesity in the United States.