Thursday, July 8, 2010

Joe Camel Foods

Remember Joe Camel? He was the ubiquitous, too-cool-for-school cartoon character that Camel used to market cigarettes to children. It was hugely successful. Studies showed that Joe Camel was one of the most recognized images among kids. Brilliant marketing, in an evil scientist kind of way.

Thankfully, the tobacco settlement of the 1990s banned cigarette marketing to kids (you'd think that corporations would consider such a thing immoral. Ha!) and sent Joe Camel back to the desert.

Libertarians and conservatives who attack the tobacco agreement truly puzzle me. I can respect their commitment to free speech and freedom in general, but using cartoon characters to hook kids on a product known to cause cancer and other deadly illnesses? You think that's okay? To me, it's like Rand Paul opposing the Civil Rights Act because he believes in the personal right to discriminate. I can understand it on a theoretical level, but practically speaking it's plum loco -- and unspeakably cruel.

Which brings me to today's news that the Obama administration is considering revolutionary new regulations that would effectively prohibit the marketing of many junk foods to kids. Okay, I'll acknowledge the principled libertarian stand. But I mean really. Trying to get kids to eat the equivalent of candy bars for breakfast or snacks with enough fat to kill a platoon of Marines? I'm sorry, but a 5-year-old can't make an informed decision. End of story.

While I'm heartened by the Obama administration's bold attempt to fight insidious marketing of junk to America's kids, I'm pessimistic that it will ever become a reality. I hope I'm wrong.

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