(Editor’s note: York News-Times Publisher Greg Awtry answers comments addressed to him on Tuesday’s editorial page by Senator Bill Avery of Lincoln.)
I am sorry Nebraska Senator Avery thinks it necessary for the state of Nebraska to outlaw certain advertising by food establishments in regards to those prizes kids receive in their meals. Avery obviously believes parents in Nebraska are incapable of making adult decisions regarding their children’s diet.
Senator Avery says in his response, (York News-Times, Tuesday, 1/25/11) “The problem … is not the parents …” But his bill says otherwise. LB126 says, “Parents have limited expertise and resources in marketing and product persuasion compared to highly sophisticated well-funded marketing experts in profit-driven multinational corporations.” What does he mean? I think he offends parents in Nebraska inferring they are too stupid to figure out that advertising is intended to make you want to buy a cheeseburger, therefore, the State of Nebraska, or Senator Avery for sure, intends to protect children from their parents’ “limited experience.”
The parents aren’t stupid. LB 126 is.
The senator also says it would be alright to advertise the toy if it met his standards. For instance, his bill says it is fine to give a toy away if you put it into a meal that: “(a) Does not exceed five hundred calories per packaged child’s meal; (b) Does not exceed ten percent of calories from saturated fat with a maximum of six grams saturated fat; (c) Contains no more than one-half gram artificial trans fat per food or beverage item in the meal; (d) Does not exceed ten percent of calories from added sugars; (e) Does not exceed six hundred forty milligrams of sodium; (f) If it includes a grain, includes at least fifty percent whole grain; and (g) Includes at least one cup of fruits or vegetables, not including fried vegetables.”
How are we going to enforce that? Senator Avery says that no additional government spending is required to enforce it. But his bill does have enforcement mechanisms. He has written into the bill that, “the director (of Agriculture) or his or her designee shall conduct periodic inspections to determine compliance with the act.” Senator Avery, are we to believe these government employees will not be paid when conducting their inspections? Restaurant owners who violate the law can be fined up to $1,000 a day. That money is paid to the state, which in turn is supposed to be returned to the community. Are we to believe that all of this will be done by state employees who are “off the clock?”
So what are we to do when, say, the Super Bowl is on national television and an ad comes on advertising a “Shrek” cup if you buy their cheeseburger meal? Since your bill outlaws television ads such as these, will these ads be blacked-out in Nebraska? Or maybe you should write into your law if something like that happens, the “parents with limited expertise” as you call them, could also be fined if they allow their kids to see the ad.
Stupid, you say? About as stupid as LB 126.
Let’s get to the bottom line, Senator Avery. I’ll agree with you that we have an obesity problem. The problem, though, is not from eating Happy Meal toys. And I can’t believe that you actually believe restricting advertising of these toys will help one child lose one pound. Can you cite examples of where this has worked in other states, where restricting advertising on meal prizes actually reduced childhood obesity?
The reason your bill won’t work is because you are taking government down a path where it doesn’t belong and knows little about. If you were serious about stopping children from eating cheeseburgers and fries, you should ban cheeseburgers and fries, not restrict the advertising. Advertising does not have any calories, salt, sugar, and/or trans fats. If you are so intent on changing children’s diets, then cut to the chase and ban the food you don’t want them to eat.
What’s next on your list, Halloween candy ads? I must be one of those “limited experience” parents your bill mentions because I saw an ad for, and subsequently bought, those bite-sized little Snicker bars to give out on Halloween. Maybe you could have the “Director of Agriculture or one of his or her designees” inspect grocery and drug store adverting too.
Sound ridiculous? Of course it does. So does LB 126.
You also take a shot at those, “highly sophisticated, well-funded marketing experts in profit-driven multinational corporations.” I call that good business. I like profits. Profits keep people employed. Profits are used to pay taxes, which pay you to do your job. Profits are good for this country and this state. Have you taken the time to visit Nebraska’s Department of Economic Development? Ask them where Nebraska would be without “profit-driven” corporations.
Senator Avery, I have looked at your proposed legislation in the 30-plus bills you introduced this session and it is clear you have Nebraskans at heart, voter registration provisions, campaign finance, blind persons’ literacy rights and obviously the budget.
But Senator, on LB 126 you are way out of bounds. Your intention is noble, your solution is nonsense.