The 10th International Congress on Obesity, being held in Sydney, Australia, has drawn 2,000 academics and health professionals but has fallen into public-policy wishful-thinking, instead of actual science-based behavior. They have gathered many “experts” around the world in urging as the headline in the Cape Times says in a “Call for global ban on junk food advertising to protect children from obesity”.
Well as a father of two, and a guy with his own personal battles against excess baggage, I bow to no one in my desire to prevent childhood obesity. But you expect a bunch of academics to actually have some evidence to support the actions they urge on the world. Instead, what we are getting is people like Gerard Hastings of Scotland’s University of Stirling saying things like this:
“No one can deny there is a link between food marketing and children getting fatter.”
When academics start saying things such as “no one can deny”, that is a code word that means “I have no actual evidence to support this crucial point, so I will assume consensus.”
It is building a massive edifice of public policy proposals on the quicksand of unproven assumptions.
So let the Pundit be the first to raise his hand and say, yes, I deny that link.
Available data indicates that children don’t consume any more calories than they did 30 years ago. What has changed is a massive drop in activity levels. Put another way, if you want your kids not be obese, banning them from watching Coo-Coo for Cocoa Puffs commercials will not be half as effective as throwing them out of the house with a soccer ball.
Besides, this point of view simply misunderstands the nature of advertising. Most advertising is not designed to make people hungry, not even to get them to want a Twinkie instead of a steak, but just to get them to choose a Twinkie over a Ding-Dong over a Devil Dog.
The casualness with which these people urge laws restricting the freedom to market and communicate is simply mind-boggling.