When is the last time you go to order a burger in fast food shop? And recently have you ever went to a convenient store and purchased a pack of cigarette? Nowadays advertisement of fast food, tobacco and alcohol product are catchy in magazines, newspapers, TV commercials or bus stop stations and it seems these products have become part of our daily lives. Fast food, tobacco and alcohol products are advertised as our “trusted friends” and fast food, tobacco and alcohol companies are targeting not only adults but also teenagers and children to be their potential customers.
What are the possible adverse effects brought by these “vice” or unhealthy products to us and our young generations? It is a known fact that consuming too much fast food, tobacco and alcohol can link to certain health problems such as obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, elevated cholesterol intake and related cancers. In fact, it is estimated in 2010 there are 222,520 new cases of lung cancers and the number of deaths from lung cancer is 157,300. Cigarette smoking accounts for at least 30%of cancer death and 87% of lung cancer.
Excess consumption of alcohol drinking is the key factor for developing certain cancer and this may increase the risk in having lung cancer. Nevertheless, the issue of consuming too much fast food have drawn the attention of the public too as it contributes the tripled rate of overweight among adolescents and the doubled rate among small children since the 1980s. Despite of such threat to the health of the public by excess consumption of such fast food, tobacco and alcohol products, why is the public still spare their money on purchasing such health-risking product? Rpgger Parloff, “ Is Fast the nest tobacco? For Big Food, the supersizing of America is becoming a big headache, Fortune Magazine, 8/3/2000, page 1 paragraph 1 and 3 ) Perhaps the answer to such question is how much faith we have in these products. It seems we always believe that companies like McDonald, Burger, Heineken or Marlboro are trust-worthy and everything they tell us in their advertisement is true and they claim they are doing their best to serve their customers.
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But the fact is we are already scammed by these advertisements which are aggressively prompted by companies intentionally abetting us to have confidence in their products. What are the advertisement strategies used by these companies? Fast food companies attract children to purchase fast food by launching advertisement with imaginary characters such as Ronald Donald, including toys in their fast food meal and creating kid clubs or building more playgrounds in their chains.
The fast food companies know that children are too young to judge what is right and what is wrong and they are not able to comprehend the purpose of the commercials and believe that everything claimed by the commercials are all true. The Fast food companies are using all their effort to make children develop brand loyalty and recognition to their business so as to encourage children to be their potential customers. Fast food Companies also attract young people to buy fast food by offering soft drinks and snacks in schools or building more chains in school areas in order to encourage students to buys fast food for regular meals.
Unfortunately, tobacco and alcohol companies are using even more aggressive strategies to attract future customers. These companies include elements like sexual content to make teenager have ideas that smoking or drinking can make them more mature and there is nothing wrong with enjoying a materialistic life. It is shocking that in most of the tobacco and alcohol commercials there are sexy models in clubs or parties, making exotic posture to make the readers arouse all kinds of fantasy.
For example, I remember there is one alcohol advertisement by Bacardi which there is a young woman with underwear in panther’s pattern is striping her clothes off while she is holding a glass of wine. What would young people think about this advertisement? To most of the teenagers there are plenty of things that they are restricted to know about when they are very young. Many young people are very eager or curious to explore new stuff like sex or even smoking and drinking.
Tobacco and alcohol companies are now even focusing 18-to-25 year old markets by promoting events at bars and sponsoring rock and blues concerts. Every year alcohol companies spend $5. 7billions on commercials concentrated in sports programs to make their products part of the fun in the matches. Such advertisement strategies by fast food, tobacco and alcohol companies may seem not a big deal to us, however it would be not wise for us to ignore the potential impacts by such products as they are already influencing our life little by little.
Too much fast food not only has brought harm to young people’s health but also distorted their universal values by misleading them that everything are granted when their parents promise to buy them fast food after they constantly nag or beg their parents. For cigarette and alcohols, even though these products are for adults only, we should not underestimate the potential harm to teenagers. More and more teenagers may become pro-longed smokers and drinkers and eventually some of them may end up giving up their future by abandoning their study or jobs.
In worst case scenario there may result in family dispute and violence. It would be very sad that teenagers choose to have a materialistic life in which he or she immerses themselves in joy-seeking activities like drinking, smoking or even taking drugs only without searching for the real meaning of life. Is there anything we or our government can do to stop fast food, tobacco and alcohol companies from manipulating our lives and protect teenagers from become overweigh victims of obesity or bad habits of smoking and drinking?
Our government has the obligation to advocate and carry out certain measures to restrict fast food, tobacco and alcohol companies to promote their unhealthy products to the public. First of all, our government should implement laws that ban direct advertisement of fast food, tobacco and alcohol advertisement to people less than 18 years old through magazine, newspaper, TV programs or commercials and internet. Most children enjoy watching TV everyday and they receive tremendous amount of information from TV channels.
Some of these information are educative while some of them are rubbish only. However children are not mature to distinguish what is purpose of such commercials. For example, when children see a commercial promoting McDonald’s burger with Ronald Donald dancing around, he or she may not know that McDonald wants them to ask their parents to pay them 5 dollars for a meal. Instead they may think eating McDonald meal is enjoyable and Ronald Donald is their trusted friend. Indeed big companies don’t really care what kind of consequences will happen on our ulnerable children after they spend so much money on making advertisements and deliver them to the public without taking any responsibility; they only care about how well the advertisements work and promote their products. Hence It is very urgent that our government should advocate and implement certain law to stop such immoral way of advertising by restricting broadcasting of fast food, tobacco and alcohol commercials until it is 10:00 pm when all children are in bed or requiring fast food, tobacco and alcohol companies to make advertisements without mentioning sensitive terms such as “cigarette”,”beer”,”smoking” or”drinking”.
As cigarette and alcohol are proven to be harmful to our health, commercials related to such products should even be banned from magazines or newspaper. If companies violate such laws they have to pay a large amount of fines and people in these companies who are responsible for posing such advertisement may need to go behind bars. However, somebody may argue that such policy is just a seemingly feasible method to stop big companies aggressively advertisement; there are always loop hole for fast food, tobacco and alcohol companies to advertise their products. But does it mean we should not do anything?
According to Eric Schlosser’s book “Fast Food Nation”, “The academy did not recommend a ban on such advertising because it seemed impractical and would infringe upon advertiser’s freedom of speech. Today the health risks faced by the nation’s children far outweigh the needs of its mass marketers. ” Long time ago people didn’t expect much from banning of cigarette advertisement from radio and television, but now everybody knows that smoking is fatal to their health. Hopefully by doing that the fast food companies will consider change their recipe into a healthier one and ultimately help children get rid of their unbalanced eating habits. Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation, Harper Perennial, USA, 2005, page 262) Secondly, adding more tax to fast food may be a feasible idea to encourage people to eat less fast food. Also more tax can be added to toys which are included in children meal in fast food shop.
Often children are attracted to fast food simply just for the toys but at the end parents are the ones who pay for the meal. If the parents think the fast food is not worthy, they will start buying less fast food. People have the choice to ake decision for themselves and they can judge whether to buy an expensive fast food meal or not when healthy and cheaper food becomes an alternative to them. It would be a wise idea to prohibit fast food companies from offering soft drinks or fried food in schools or opening chains in area where schools are nearby in order help children resist the temptation of tasty burgers and French fries. According to administrators in San Francisco and Seattle, “it’s our responsibility to make it clear that schools are here to serve children, not commercial interest. And indeed recently, according to a research published in Journal of Law and Economics in November 2008, elimination of tax deductibility of food advertisement cost equals to increasing the food advertisement cost by 54%. (Science Daily, “Ban on fast food TV advertisement would reverse childhood obesity trends, study shows, 1/27/11, < http://www. sciencedaily. com/releases/2008/11/081119120149. htm > ) Lastly, our government can consider making it mandatory to require cigarette manufacturer put on warnings on cigarette packing to make sure that all smokers know the consequence of pro-longed smoking to their body.
Of course it wouldn’t be effective enough to have words of warning printed on the packing, so in order to make the warning more deterrent, certain kind of photos should be printed on the packing as well. What kind of photos would be suitable? In Hong Kong photos of black lungs or skeleton with a burning cigarette in its mouth are printed on the packing of cigarette to remind smokers that smoking is a self-destructive behavior rather than a relief.
According to Lori Ferrsina, advocate for the American Cancer Society of Massachusetts, “Reducing public smoking is a golden nugget in its impact on youth. You are changing the world you raise kid in, not just telling them it’s bad for them. ” We shouldn’t exploit other’s freedom of smoking, but at least we should facilitate an environment in which we can help people stay away from trying their first puff of cigarette. ( Marianne Lavelle, “An Anti-smoking Ad vs. New Cigarette Marketing Ploy”, page 2, paragraph 10 )
In fact our government can resort to a more simple solution – education, to convince our future generations that taking care of their health is their own business. Education is another effective way to teach our young generations to make choices on what they eat. Education on how to maintain a balanced daily live and conveying the idea of understanding good health and nutrition should be included in lessons in school in order to let students know how much nutrition they can obtain from their daily meal and what would happen if they eat more than they need.
Also children should acknowledge that excess smoking or drinking can result in higher risk of having heart diseases or cancers. Perhaps young people are not willing to pay attention to the importance of having balanced diets or staying away from smoking and drinking but at least they should be warned and have a brief idea of what would happen when they are addicted to fast food, cigarette or alcohol too much. It is our responsibility to help children realize they can make a choice on their diet before they are too late to make such choices.
However, even our government is willing to do their best to protect us by implementing laws and policies, it is still our own business to take care of our health. What can we do to make sure we and our children can have balanced diets or stay away from bad habits of smoking or drinking? Firstly, it would be a good idea for parents to supervise their children when they are watching TV or browsing the internet. Some parents are not aware of what kind of TV programs or internet website their children are watching.
This is definitely not good to children because they need adults to tell them what kind of messages they get from the media Is correct. If parents are willing to spare a little every day to accompany their children to watch TV or browse the internet, they can possibly prevent their children from accepting wrong information from the media by telling them the truth about excess consumption of fast food, cigarette and alcohol.
In fact, simply telling children that they are too young to have too much fast food or smoke and drink, without explaining why adults shouldn’t do the same, is not convincing enough to persuade children that having too much fast food or smoking and drinking are unhealthy. So parents need to be role model to their children by having more balanced and health diets like sandwiches or fruits and quitting smoking or drinking.
If parents can make lunch box for children to eat in school every day, children can obtain sufficient amount of nutrition and prevent them from being overweighed. To conclude, although it is our own choice to have or not to have fast food, cigarette or alcohol, that doesn’t make a reason for big companies to promote their products aggressively without considering their social responsibility. Now it is not the time to judge who is right or wrong, instead we should figure out what we can do for our future generations.
Rpgger Parloff, “ Is Fast the nest tobacco? For Big Food, the supersizing of America is becoming a big headache, Fortune Magazine, 8/3/2000, page 1 paragraph 1 and 3 Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation, Harper Perennial, USA, 2005, page 262) Science Daily, “Ban on fast food TV advertisement would reverse childhood obesity trends, study shows, 1/27/11, < http://www. sciencedaily. com/releases/2008/11/081119120149. htm > Marianne Lavelle, “An Anti-smoking Ad vs. New Cigarette Marketing Ploy”, page 2, paragraph 10
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