CHAMPAIGN, Ill. With mounting concerns over childhood obesity and its associated health risks in the U.S., would a ban on junk-food advertising aimed at children be more effective than the current voluntary, industry-led ban? According to published research from a University of Illinois economist, advertising bans do work, but an outright ban covering the entire U.S. media market would be the most effective policy tool for reducing fast-food consumption in children.
Kathy Baylis, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics, studied the ban on junk-food advertising imposed in the Canadian province of Quebec from 1984 to 1992 and its effect on fast-food purchases.
By comparing English-speaking households, who were less likely to be affected by the ban, to French-speaking households, Baylis and co-author Tirtha Dhar, of the University of British Columbia, found evidence that the ban reduced fast-food expenditures by 13 percent per week in French-speaking households, leading to between 11 million and 22 million fewer fast-food meals eaten per year, or 2.2 billion to 4.4 billion fewer calories consumed by children.
"Given the nature of Quebec's media market and demographics, a ban would disproportionately affect French-speaking households, but would not affect similar households in Ontario or households without children in either province," Baylis said.
Baylis says the study is applicable to the U.S., although the results wouldn't be quite as robust if bans were instituted state by state.
"What we found is that advertising bans are most effective when children live in an isolated media market, and it's only because they're in an isolated media market that they're getting these effects," she said. "If any state on their own decided to do this, it would be problematic. If the U.S. as a whole decided to do it, our research indicates that such a ban could be successful. The comparison is a strongly regulated syste
|Contact: Phil Ciciora|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign