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Is Banning Fast Food on TV the Answer?

I’m always fascinated by the political debate from the Left and Right over the free market and what role, if any, the government should play in our society. In full disclosure, I am one who leans a little to the Left on most issues, including the market. I don’t think that having sensible regulations means you are inherently against capitalism and all the wonderful things that it entails.

I’ll use a sports analogy to explain my views: I love football. But what would the NFL be if there were no referees?

I totally understand it’s a tightrope, and that too much oversight can be stagnating. But we’ve seen what too little oversight can do in the financial market.

Anyway, how does all this apply to dieting, you ask? Plenty.

There’s more happening in the public health realm that raises, what I find to be, the interesting debate/dilemma of the free market society that we live in. Researchers have found that banning fast food advertising on television in the United States could reduce the number of overweight children by as much as 18 percent.

It may come as a surprise from what I’ve divulged about my own political views, but I feel intervention in this case is the wrong thing to do. While there can be a correlation made between restrictions on cigarette ads and fast food, as they both can have deadly effects, I think there needs to be a line drawn somewhere.

The researchers seem to agree.

The team at the National Bureau of Economic Research questioned whether it would be practical to impose that kind of government regulation. While it’s been done in other industrialized countries, such as Sweden, Norway and Finland, what would come next? In fact, by that line of argument, beer commercials should be next on the chopping block. TV itself has been shown to make people fat, and nobody thinks we should ban that.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 13.9 percent of children ages 2-5 are overweight, with 18.8 percent of children ages 6-11, and more than 17 percent of those 12-19. Let’s come up with more creative ways to combat obesity, not more big brother government policies.

December 4th, 2008