- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2006

CHICAGO (AP) — Inappropriate advertising contributes to many children’s behaviors, from obesity to anorexia, to drinking booze and having sex, and Congress should crack down on it, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.

The influential doctors’ group issued a new policy statement in response to what it calls a rising tide of advertising aimed at youth. The policy appears in December’s Pediatrics journal, scheduled for release today.

“Young people view more than 40,000 ads per year on television alone and increasingly are being exposed to advertising on the Internet, in magazines and in schools,” the policy states.

Advertising examples cited in the statement include TV commercials for sugary breakfast cereals and high-calorie snacks shown during children’s programs and ads for Viagra and other erectile- dysfunction drugs shown during televised sports.

The statement also is critical of alcohol ads that feature cartoonish animal characters, fast-food ads on educational TV shown in schools, magazine ads with stick-thin models, and toy and other product “tie-ins” between popular movie characters and fast-food restaurants.

These pervasive ads influence children to demand poor food choices, and to think drinking is cool, sex is a recreational activity and anorexia is fashionable, the academy says.

Interactive digital TV, expected to arrive in a few years, will spread the problem, allowing children to click on-screen links to Web-based promotions, the new policy says.

In response, the academy says doctors should ask Congress and federal agencies to:

• Ban junk-food ads during shows geared toward young children;

• Limit commercial advertising to no more than six minutes per hour, a 50 percent decrease;

• Restrict alcohol ads to showing only the product, not cartoon characters or attractive young women;

• Prohibit interactive advertising to children on digital TV.

The academy also says TV ads for erectile-dysfunction drugs should be shown only after 10 p.m.

Jeff Becker, president of the Beer Institute, an industry group for breweries, said parents have more influence than advertising on teens’ decisions to drink. He also said brewers work to ensure that beer ads appear in adult-oriented outlets. For much of the sports programming where beer ads appear, most viewers are at least 21, Mr. Becker said.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics is wrong to blame alcohol advertising for the actions of underage teens who willingly break the law to drink illegally,” he said.

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