While there is no proof that advertising leads to greater consumption of unhealthy foods, enough people believe that it does that calls for censorship, starting with the campaign currently running in support of high-fructose corn syrup, are on the rise. (Lazarus, 2009)
First amendment issues aside, there is proof, based on the broadcast ban of cigarette advertising in the 70’s that censorship efforts tend to backfire. In the case of cigarettes, the move of serious amounts of money from television to more cost efficient print resulted in greater product awareness and more efficient campaigns. (Calfee & Ringold, 1990)
Perhaps the answer lies in attempting to harness the strength of advertising in a positive fashion. VERB, the CDC’s effort against childhood obesity, which encouraged children to play with a ball, blog about their activities, and pass it along, generated impressive results. First year awareness levels were 74%, and both the amount and length of activity increased. (“VERB: CDC’s Youth Campaign, 2008)
Sadly, the effort was halted in 2006 due to lack of funding. Why not require the producers of high-fructose corn syrup to provide funding for the effort much as cigarette companies are now funding anti-smoking campaigns?
And while we’re at it, according to 9/30/09’s Wall Street Journal, fewer than 10% of US high school students are eating the recommended 5-9 servings of fruit and veggies a day. (AP, 2009) Sounds like a job for McDonald’s if you ask me.
What do you think?
Lazarus, D. (2009, September 30). Let’s limit our intake of corn-syrup ads. latimes.com. Retrived September 30, 2009, from
Calfee, J. & Ringold, D. (1990). What would happen if cigarette advertising and promotion were banned? Advances in Consumer Research. Volume 17 pages 474-479. Retrived September 30, 2009, from
(2008, May 20). VERB Campaign Case Study, National Social Marketing Centre. cdc.gov. Retrived September 30, 2009, from
Associated Press (2009, September 30). Kids Eat Few Fruits, Veggies. Wall Street Journal, pD2