Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) has introduced a bill to deny federal tax deductions to companies marketing “junk food” to children. The Stop Subsidizing Childhood Obesity Act (H.R. 6599) would “amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to protect children’s health by denying any deduction for advertising and marketing directed at children to promote the consumption of food at fast food restaurants or of food of poor nutritional quality.”
In a recent press release, Kucinich contends that Congress—with [citizens’] tax dollars—has subsidized the marketing efforts of fast food and junk food companies by as much as $19 billion over the past 10 years. “In 2004 alone, $10 billion was spent on food advertising directed at children. It is effective because a child’s brain is unable to distinguish fact from fiction at a time they are developing life-long taste allegiance. If it didn’t work, they wouldn’t do it. According to The Journal of Law and Economics, eliminating this subsidy would reduce the rates of childhood obesity by 5–7 percent.”
Kucinich argues that although partial blame does lie with a more sedentary lifestyle and a worsening diet, the influence of sophisticated, targeted marketing of junk food to kids has been largely ignored by the public, and the role of advertising and marketing in the childhood obesity epidemic, which now affects 1 in 3 children, is readily acknowledged by experts.
“According to the Institute of Medicine,” he says, “Aggressive marketing of high-calorie foods to children and adolescents has been identified as one of the major contributors to childhood obesity. We can end this tax break, improve our kids’ health and reduce our nation’s debt all at the same time. It’s time to stop subsidizing the childhood obesity epidemic.”