Jeff Stier

A ban on junk food advertising towards children simply postpones the learning process to later years when parents have less control. Ironically, the AAP seems to recognize this truth. “Pediatricians should encourage parents to discuss food advertising with their children as they monitor children’s TV-viewing and teach their children about appropriate nutrition,” they wrote in late June calling for the ban.

Advertisements for junk food meant to appeal to children are already banned in Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Quebec. And while the chances of a ban on the advertising of all foods not meeting the AAP’s arbitrary nutritional guidelines during “programming viewed predominately by young children” actually being implemented in the United States any time soon are slim, the AAP’s call comes amidst a string of recent actions against fast food industry marketing efforts, including “Happy Meal” toy bans in California’s Santa Clara and San Francisco counties late last year.

This isn’t the first time such a push is being made in this country. In 2007, then-Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications Rep. Ed Markey said “he was prepared to press the Federal Communications Commission . . . to protect children” by banning “junk food” advertising appearing alongside children’s programming, under what he says was the authority they were given in 1990 by the Children’s Television Act. Today, the guidelines being considered by the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control, Federal Trade Commission, and Department of Agriculture are so far-reaching that industry officials are examining the constitutional arguments against their implementation and touting an economic analysis that shows the guidelines killing 75,000 jobs annually.

The campaign to limit marketing of disfavored foods is a priority for nanny-state activists. But just because obesity is a real problem doesn’t mean that every freedom-limiting intervention the activists call for should be taken seriously. In fact, if you are afraid of clowns, perhaps you have more to fear from the food-police than Ronald McDonald.

Jeff Stier

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and directs its Risk Analysis Division. You can follow him on Twitter at @JeffAStier.