Hey, Critics of the Happy Meal Toy Ban: Banning Fast Food Advertising Does Work

Categories: Talking Points
BurgerKing_ad_still.jpg
Still from a Burger King ad
San Francisco came in for a heap of ridicule last year -- including some from this very paper -- when the Board of Supervisors passed a ban on selling fast-food meals containing toys. The sentiment intensified, of course, when McDonald's easily skirted the ban

Messages like ours have reached the industry, however. Under threat of possible federal regulations that would ban advertising of fast food to children, this summer, a group of major food-industry players -- including Hershey, McDonald's and Kraft -- agreed to voluntarily agree to only advertise to children products that met certain nutritional standards. The agreement is supposed to go into effect in 2013.

But a study published not long ago in the Journal of Marketing Research suggests a full-on ban on advertising would be even more effective. Researchers Tirtha Dhar and Kathy Baylis looked at fast-food consumption in Quebec from 1986 to 1992, a period when the provincial government banned fast-food advertising. 

Figuring that English-language families would be less affected by the ban, since they were able to watch TV programming broadcast from other provinces and the United States, the researchers looked only at French-language households. During those six years, fast-food consumption among French speakers dropped 13 percent. That's a considerable drop -- between 11 million and 22 million meals per year, the researchers estimated. 

And that's just in a relatively tiny, linguistically isolated market. Considering that the food industry spent $2.6 million in 2006 alone advertising to kids, a lot of kids would be eating a lot less hamburgers if the United States were able (ha!) to pass similar legislation. Will the industry's voluntary ban work? SFoodie suspects companies will find a thousand creative ways to flout its rules. San Francisco's botched toy ban might have been ineffective -- but it's not as ludicrous as its critics suggested.

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Cherrygreensky
Cherrygreensky

There might be other reasons for the decline. After-all, not enough can be said about the good reputation of talented french chefs.

More importantly, as fast food is only a single variety of junk food, that might not show that they're eating healthier so much as they're not eating at the fast food establishments as much. People buy happy meals to treat their children and they're much more likely to do that with cookies, candy and pastries than a piece of fruit which could be nutritious if not sugary, let alone any vegetable.

"Could you point out where getting a toy with your happy meal is in the Bill of Rights?"

No but that doesn't mean such a right doesn't exist. Do check up on the ninth amendment MrEricSir, it was meant specifically to deal with torts such as this, since there are far too many rights to list. It makes it so that legislation has to be linked to duly delegated governmental authority. Authority that is derived from the consent of the governed to secure their own rights, which include the right to pursue happiness to paraphrase The Declaration of Independence. It's not our place to tell others what they should be doing unless somebody else's rights are somehow conceivably impinged, not a superiority complex.

Granted, this interpretation of the ninth amendment oversimplifies the constitution, since it was primed as a letter to stipulate the role of 'federal' government but that started to change with incorporation doctrine and I wouldn't be surprised if California's own constitution mirrors the sentiment, albeit I feel a bit too lazy to double check at the moment.

If I can buy a toy to make my (hypothetical) child happy, and if I can buy junk food for similar purpose, why couldn't I buy junk-food that comes with a toy for my child? Because I'm presumed to be a bad parent who'll be negligent to my kid's dietary needs? I thought the presumption our society holds near and dear to its heart was innocence before guilt...

Padamagblog
Padamagblog

As an American, I firmly believe in having choices available to me.

However, many of the comments here can be compared to the arguments that people made over 30 years ago when proposals where being made to ban smoking from public places. People didn't believe that smoking in public harmed the health of anyone who wawas subject to second hand smoke. Today, there are city ordinances that prevent smoking. After years of research, studies and public service announcements, this idea to remove the choice to smoke in public is no longer thought of as extreme.

Did anyone who expressed opposition to the idea of banning advertising directed at children, read the research study from Quebec?

Does anyone here live in a food desert? Or know what it's like to live in a food desert? Has anyone looked at studies showing the increase in childhood obesity over the last 60 years and compared that to the changes advertising laws?

If we're all about personal choice, why don't we bring back cartoon character smoking ads and place them on TV, just like the old days?

And BTW, I'm a smoker living in Los Angeles.

Robert Cutler
Robert Cutler

It is beyond shameful to take away from children the ability to learn how to eat sensibly. Remove every decision from a child or parent and who will be deciding for us? Let me guess. A government official that has decided I am to stupid to raise my kids and they alone are the salvation for all things good. Would someone kindly look back in history and share with me that great society that has had similar rights taken away and finds itself prospering today like America was...

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

Could you point out where getting a toy with your happy meal is in the Bill of Rights?

TShandy
TShandy

Eric Mar looked at his fat daughter and blamed McDonald's. And I believe his toy ban is as ridiculous as this stupid article. 

Granmaoften
Granmaoften

Great job-  As Responsible adults, it's important to stand up and protect our children from themselves and their well meaning caretakers.  The fast food industry spends an extraordinary amount of money, trying to lure our children in with gimmicks and cartoons, it's good to see that not everyone is 'drinking the poison'.

Isabella Dryden
Isabella Dryden

Everyone is a genius at least once a year. The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together.

mrf
mrf

The reason I was against the ban was that it seemed like the primary motivation for the supervisors was nation-wide publicity.

I was in Super Duper in Marina on a Saturday morning and the restaraunt was full of little kids stuffing their faces with hamburgers and french fries. What is the supes plan for protecting rich kids from trans fats?

Pest Control Houston
Pest Control Houston

Agree! A happy meal/McDonalds isn't the problem. The problem is having parents control the eating habits of their kids and teaching them how they should be living.

Joe
Joe

"Ludicrous" is not why many of us decried the ban on fast food toys for kids. There is a fundamental matter of principle here. 

Banning fast food advertising for kids violates the same principle. We should not be banning something just because some people overindulge. People are responsible for their own behavior.

(Why do I suspect there is more to the Quebec story than you've let on?)

The next thing we know, you and SFWeekly will be bringing back Prohibition!

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

"People are responsible for their own behavior."What you're saying is effectively that corporations should not be held responsible.  Why the double standard?

atomic1fire
atomic1fire

What you have effectively said is corperations should be parenting children.Most fast food companies (and even subway) have kids menu's, so what if they add a toy.If parents are going to give their kids cheap fattening foods, removing toys sure isn't going to stop them.Responsibillity isn't about making everyone changeResponsibillity is about changing yourself, and the people you are responsible for.If you don't want your kids eating fast food, don't go to fast food restraunts, or pick the healthiest option.

Pack a meal when you go to shop somewhere, or form a plan about how and where you will eat, and what time.

If you want businesses to be healthier, why not take the competitive root and create healthier franchises.

Most of the time, people go to fast food joints for one of two reasons.

They are lazy, and they recognize the food.

trying to change how these businesses work isn't going to change the people.even if they start eating whole grain, that still isn't going to stop them from sitting at home and watching tv for 10 hours or surfing Facebook when exercise is the healthier option.

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

Holy shit, I didn't know Antonin Scalia posted here!

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