Everyday we are bombarded with advertisements to encourage us to consume a particular good from a particular company. Whether it be online, through our televisions, in prints we read, on the radio, or whatever medium it may be, we are surrounded by hints towards consumerism. Although sometimes these advertisements may create an urge to consume, the truth of the matter is we still contain the power of choice. This power of free will is something that all of us contain, but some do not choose to act on. Because of this, the debate around who is responsible for health outcomes is a prevalent one.
I am sure you have read and heard about many studies about television commercials having consumptive effects on people, especially children, but I have a problem with these studies. The majority of these studies, such as “Priming Effects of Television Food Advertising on Eating Behavior”, all include lack of parental supervision. Yes I agree that the 45% increase in snacking by the children when submitted to snack commercials is a very real fact, the fact that kids were able to snack with out supervision, I believe, is the problem. Children unfortunately are not thoroughly educated in smart and healthy consumption, so their only hope is responsible parenting. When allowing their kids to watch something that is proven to increase appetite, why would you provide your child with a bowl of goldfish instead of a plate of orange slices? I see very little room for excuses here. Providing your child with unhealthy snacks will no doubt lead to unhealthy consumption.
Companies exist to sell things and be successful. Obviously they are working hard to convince people to buy their product, regardless of their health outcomes. As long as consuming these products does not put others around us at risk, I do not believe that a ban or tax is justified. I do believe that healthy food options should exist in the same numbers as fast food options, but unfortunately at this time that is now how it is. “Why We Eat More Than We Think” does a great job of identifying the consumer as the problem. We are the ones putting ourselves in the situation to consume by purchasing the product and choosing our portions. “We can’t control where there’s a McDonald’s on the corner, but we can control whether we have potato chips sitting on the counter or ice cream in the freezer…” Bad food is not our only choice, people just lack the education to choose otherwise. “You can’t just tell them that they shouldn’t eat chips or candy or meat. You have to convince them that there’s an alternative.” I think this is the walk away message, we must educate people about healthier alternatives.