Thursday, March 29, 2007

"They're grrreat!" - A Look at TV Commercials for Food and Drugs

My favorite cereal as a kid, and even today, is Tony Tiger’s "They’re grrreat!" Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. I loved the TV commercials from Tony Tiger back in the early 1950s. We always had Wheaties in our home, Daddy’s favorite, along with Sugar Frosted Flakes, Shredded Wheat, Grape Nuts, Rice Krispies, Cherrios, Quaker Oatmeal or Cream of Wheat or Rice. I don’t buy Frosty Flakes often today, but I really enjoy them when I do!

A new study regarding children’s TV ads about foods links childhood obesity increased rates to the number of food ads children are exposed to. This makes little sense to me because, for one thing, young children are not out there doing their own shopping or visiting a fast food restaurant on their own. Often I’ve been in the grocery store while a parent, usually a mother, with a small child is in the cereal row. I’ve heard the child asking for a certain cereal, one that would be considered high in sugar, and I’ve heard a mother say quietly, "No, we will have this one," picking up a healthier brand. The opposition from the young child doesn’t usually last long.

I recall my preschool aged kids learning to read and recognizing cereals from TV commercials while grocery shopping. They were both very early readers, and reading cereal boxes was a part of learning. And no, my kids were not overweight.

The responsibility for balanced eating habits is not with young children, but with parents. And other changes have influenced, such as changes in our school systems–the removal of daily gym classes from curriculums–and economic conditions–the need for two working parents–and time restraints in a more chaotic and expensive society.

But there is something of a much greater concern to me. It is not the food commercials or the food shows that may or may not be influencing Americans but the pharmaceutical commercials that bombard us constantly on television. We have become a nation of prescription drugs users (and over-users), buying into the direct-to-consumer billion dollar advertising campaign of the pharmaceutical industry. Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, anti-ulcer, anti-cholesterol, anti-impotence, anti-allergy, anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertension, anti-whatever. It is no wonder prescription drug costs are so high with a budget of billions spent on TV and print advertising. Some of these drug ads are required in their "product-claim" to list risks, and hearing those contraindications should be enough for a thinking person to re-consider and seek an alternative. How many prescription drugs have been pulled off the market in recent time due to complications and supposed unknown risk? Too many. I personally feel strongly that everyone needs to play an "informed part" in one’s own medical care and decisions, but I also know how doctors tend to over-prescribe, especially anti-depressants for adults, and even children. And I’m sure if you see a drug that sounds as if it would "fit" you on television, and if you ask, you will probably leave your doctor’s office with an RX in hand (maybe his alternative choice of that drug–his pharmaceutical vendor–a kick-back?). But don’t forget, you also have choices in your care if you feel a prescribed medication is not what you want.

By the way, this children’s TV ad research was conducted by a medical entity, Kaiser Family Research Foundation, and reported by AP, March 28. 2007.

Some day while watching TV for several hours, count the number of drug ads. It’s ridiculous! And enjoy a nice big bowl of Tony Tiger’s Frosty Flakes while doing so! As Tony says, "They’re grrreat!"

~ Linda

1 comment:

Nancy Tarver said...

No surprise. Kaiser Permanente has made the rise in childhood obesity one of their prominent concerns. This is a true health maintenance organization.