Have you ever found yourself standing in front of the fridge with the door open, even though you’re not really hungry? Your eyes dart past the fruit and zero in on the sugary snacks. Before you even take a bite, you’re already salivating. I hate to break it to you, but advertising probably led you to that moment. Ads for foods high in salt, sugar, and fat—aka junk food—are designed to control our appetites and make us crave food we don’t need. These ads are a great marketing strategy for the junk food and fast food companies, but they’re bad news for our health, which is why I think these ads should be banned.
Junk food ads are effective because they hijack our body’s natural way of signaling hunger and can trigger mindless eating. According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, people eat 45 percent more after watching food advertising on television, whether they feel hungry or not. All that thoughtless munching can have dire consequences: Research shows that a diet high in junk food can lead to health problems, including a risk of obesity, depression, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
What’s worse, these ads relentlessly target a vulnerable audience—kids. Research shows that kids see 12 junk food ads per hour on some cartoon channels. By the time we have the money to buy our own food, we’re hooked on these unhealthy products.
I agree with people who say that we should all get to make our own choices about the food we eat, but getting rid of ads doesn’t take away our freedom of choice. Rather, it takes away a company’s power to manipulate our choices, so that kids who choose an unhealthy snack are doing so because they legitimately want it, not because they’ve been brainwashed into thinking they want it when they’re not even hungry.
Banning junk food and fast food ads would be a small step toward protecting the kids who are most susceptible to advertising tricks, and it could ultimately improve our odds of developing healthier eating habits early on.