Junk Food: Just as Bad as Cigarettes, and Marketing Tactics Also Rival Those of Big Tobacco
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There are over 61.5 million children under the age of 14 in the US, 1 and for American businesses, these kids represent one of the most powerful demographics to be captured.
Not only do these children spend $40 billion a year on snacks, toys, and electronics, using money given to them by their parents or family members, they also exert a powerful influence on their parents' spending.
As noted in the documentary film Consuming Kids. children under 12 influence adult spending worth a staggering $700 billion a year, which equates to the combined economy of 115 of the world's poorest countries.
The film also reveals the shrewd business practices of the multi-billion dollar marketing machine that has one sole purpose: to turn your kids into loyal, lifelong consumers who will also influence how the entire family spends its money.
Much of this money is spent on processed junk foods, which has been overwhelmingly implicated in rising obesity and chronic disease rates—especially among kids.
Captivating children's attention with superheroes and other cartoon characters, using freebie toys to entice them, even ensuring the checkout aisles at grocery stores are stocked with candy bars within a toddler's reach - all intentional marketing towards children.
What's worse, according to recent research into food addiction, "highly processed foods can lead to classic signs of addiction like loss of control, tolerance, and withdrawal, 2 " Time Magazine reports. The sugar, salt, and trans fats formulas to these processed foods are also intentional, as many "food scientists" have collaborated to ensure human taste receptors are manipulated by these irresistible goods.
Obesity Poses Greater Threat to Health Than Smoking
Another Time Magazine
article quotes UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, as saying that "obesity is a bigger global health threat than tobacco use," and that this fact isn't taken as seriously as it should be.
His statements were delivered at the opening of the 2014 World Health Organization's annual summit. De Schutter ultimately wants nations to join forces to place stricter regulations on unhealthy foods:
"Just as the world came together to regulate the risks of tobacco, a bold framework convention on adequate diets must now be agreed, " he said.
"The Special Rapporteur has previously agitated for greater governmental action on junk foods, including taxing unhealthy products, regulating fats and sugars, cracking down on advertising for junk food, and rethinking agricultural subsidies that make unhealthy food cheaper," Time Magazine notes.
'Governments have been focusing on increasing calorie availability,' he said, 'but they have often been indifferent to what kind of calories are offered, at what price, to whom they are made available, and how they are marketed.'"
The idea that being overweight can be more harmful than smoking is likely to make many balk, considering how "normal" it has become to carry around extra pounds, but in terms of overall health effects and subsequent health care costs, it's likely true. For example, data collected from over 60,000 Canadians show that obesity leads to more doctor visits than smoking. 3
Canadian and American obesity statistics are neck-to-neck, with about one-quarter to one third of adults in the obese category. A staggering two-thirds of Americans are overweight. This does indeed place a heavy burden on the health care system. It's important to realize that a large number of diseases are directly attributable to obesity. including: