When Marketing Affects Habits — and Can Kill Us

(This post was updated on June 4, 2018 to correct an embarrassing error.  My mother passed aged eighty-three, not seventy-nine.)

During the last three months of my mother’s life (2010), when she was shuttled between two facilities in Oakland (California), I felt grateful for the way the hospital cafeteria at Summit-Alta Bates Medical Center’s Merritt Pavilion was organized. The healthiest food was near the entrance.

When I visited my mother, I was careful to eat well so I wouldn’t be forced to miss seeing her because of illness.  I was overwhelmed, though, and appreciated every convenience.  If high-fat comfort food had been right inside the front doorway of the cafeteria, I might have eaten that part of the time.

I used to think regulating this sort of thing was a bad idea.  It sounded too much like a scheme to inch toward fascism.  Now, the United States is inching toward fascism while the food that damages our health is kept within easy reach.  Many people are eating it all day long, too.

About forty years ago, a debate aired on a public TV channel in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The argument was over whether advertising for junk food should be banned from children’s programming.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what to think, but now we’re seeing the extreme damage caused by lack of regulation.  Children who weren’t born forty years ago are now obese, and our society still hasn’t adjusted to encourage kids to make healthy choices.

It’s difficult for a thirty year-old to argue that regulating the way crap food is marketed will threaten our freedom when that person weighs three hundred pounds, is being treated for a massive stroke and will never live independently again.

I’m grateful my mother began taking better care of her health before she suffered severe consequences.  She lived independently until three months before her passing, aged eighty-three.  I hope to do something similar.

Here’s a link to a Channel 4 (London) report on the ongoing controversy.  It isn’t just in the United States.


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