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Senator Harkin Unveils HeLP AMERICA Bill to Improve Children’s Health and Limit Advertising to Children

On June 18, Senator Tom Harkin unveiled the HeLP (Healthy Lifestyles and Prevention) America Act with important provisions to restrict food marketing in schools and restore the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) authority to regulate all advertising to children.


In 1978, after a thorough review of research that demonstrated marketing to young children is inherently unfair because they do not understand its persuasive intent, the FTC proposed a ban on advertising to children under eight.  Worried about losing access to a lucrative market, the affected industries lobbied Congress and their efforts were rewarded.  Congress sided with corporations over the public interest, and, in 1980, rescinded the FTC’s power to regulate advertising to children.


Since then, child-directed marketing has escalated exponentially with virtually no government oversight.  Under current law, it is more difficult to regulate advertising to children than to adults! The Harkin bill is an important step towards fixing the problem. By restoring the FTC’s authority to control children’s marketing, we will have the regulatory structure needed to fight back against an advertising industry run amok.


The coalition to Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children and Free Press have launched a national campaign in support of this important legislation.  Tell your senators to support the Harkin Bill!


Some facts about marketing to children:

  • In 2002, corporations spent at least than $15 billion on marketing to children.
  • On average, children see 40,000 television commercials a year alone.
  • Marketing is a factor in the childhood obesity epidemic.  Since 1980, the number of overweight kids in the U.S. between 6 and 11 years of age doubled, while the number tripled for those 12 to 17 years old
  • Marketing also encourages eating disorders, precocious sexuality, youth violence and family stress.
  • In their effort to establish cradle-to-grave brand loyalty, marketers even target babies.
  • Eighty-five percent of Americans would to make children’s programming commercial free.
  • Even the advertising industry seems to sense something is wrong with the current “anything goes” marketing climate.  Seventy-seven percent of respondents to an Advertising Age poll believe there is a direct link between TV ads and childhood obesity.







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