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Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance
found that it would be difficult to develop a workable rule that would address the concerns without infringing on First Amendment rights (Engle, 2003). Congress barred any rule based on unfairness, and the FTC terminated the rulemaking in 1981 (Engle, 2003; Story and French, 2004).
Protecting parents from children’s requests for advertised products was not considered a sufficient basis for FTC action at that time. Furthermore, the process identified the complexities of designing implementable rules that restrict advertising directed at children (e.g., how to effectively place limits on the time of day when advertisements could appear and how to define the scope of advertisements directed at young children only) (Engle, 2003). Thus the committee feels that the immediate step is to strengthen industry self-regulation and corporate responsibility. Government agencies should also be empowered to be engaged with industry in these discussions and to monitor compliance.
The committee favors an approach to address advertising and marketing directed especially at young children under 8 years of age, but also for older children and youth, that would first charge industry with voluntary implementation of guidelines developed through diverse stakeholder input, followed by more stringent regulation if industry is unable to mount an effective self-regulating strategy. This approach is similar to that recommended for control of advertising of alcoholic beverages to youth (NRC and IOM, 2003).
It is not possible to determine whether industry self-regulation will lead to a favorable change in marketing and advertising of food and sedentary entertainment11 products to children sooner than governmen- imposed regulation. However, it is desirable that industry is provided with an opportunity to implement voluntary changes to move toward marketing and advertising practices that do not increase the risk of obesity among children and youth, followed by government regulation if voluntary actions are determined to be unsuccessful.
DHHS should convene a national conference and invite the participation of a diverse group of stakeholders to develop standards for marketing of foods and beverages (e.g., portion sizes, calories, fat, sugar, and sodium) and sedentary entertainment (movies, videos and DVDs, and other electronic games). The group should include the food, beverage, and restaurant industries; the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Better Business Bureaus; media and entertainment industries; leisure and recre-
Sedentary entertainment refers to activities and products that require minimal physical activity and encourage physical inactivity such as watching television, video rentals, and spectator sports.