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Kucinich Pushes to End Tax Subsidies for Junk Food Advertising

Lucia Graves
Huffington Post
July 12, 2010

As First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to the NAACP convention in Kansas City about childhood obesity Monday, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) continued his work behind the scenes to stem junk food advertising to kids. A new bill introduced by Kucinich could raise billions of dollars in revenue to fund child nutrition and anti-obesity initiatives by preventing companies from writing off advertising of junk food targeted at kids.

Taxpayers are effectively subsidizing the spread of the obesity epidemic, Kucinich says, since under current federal law marketing expenses for the junk- and fast-food industries are tax-deductible. The legislation offers an easy win for increasingly hysterical deficit hawks, and would provide much-needed funds for Democrats looking to pass more aid programs, such as renewed unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.

"I commend the First Lady for her dedication to stopping the epidemic of childhood obesity and for shedding light on the problem of food marketing to children," Kucinich wrote in a letter to colleagues. His measure, HR 4310, would prohibit any company from claiming a tax deduction for expenses derived from advertising to children any fast food or food of limited nutritional value. He cites a study suggesting that eliminating the federal subsidies of food advertising directed at youth could significantly reduce obesity rates.

But if deductions for food advertising expenses are considered subsidies, so are many other types of business expense write-offs, such as those for guns and cigarettes. Why should lawmakers single out the snack food industry?

Michelle Obama suggests it's a good place to start. She told her audience today that 50 percent of African-American children will develop diabetes, and a recent report on the state of physical education in the country shows that among children ages six to 11, 33 percent are overweight and 17 percent are obese.

As much as 50 percent of all television advertising during children's programs is dedicated to food and the vast majority of these advertisements are for junk food, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The data showed that of over 8,000 ads aired during children's shows, zero advertised fresh fruits or vegetables.

The advertising seems to be paying off, judging by its volume and cost. The Institute of Medicine estimates that in 2004 more than $11 billion was spent on all types of food marketing and advertising, with approximately $10 billion devoted to food and beverage advertising aimed at children.


 

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