A study from the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity was recently published on the effects of food advertisements on preschoolers’ snacking habits. The exposure to food ads can prime eating behaviors and cause children to respond to external signals rather than their internal signs of fullness or hunger. This is linked to obesity, causing children to eat more of the unhealthy food being advertised than they would normally be eating. It was also found that marketing healthy foods in the same was as unhealthy ones nearly triples the likelihood of children eating more fruits and vegetables.
This article brings up the question of weather it is moral for advertisers to create junk food ads targeting children. We can relate it to Holley and Carson’s critique of the principle of caveat emptor-buyer beware by seeing advertisers as salespersons. Children are not seen as being able to make rational decisions on their own, which makes it unethical. Another reason it is unethical is because the buyer is unknowingly being compelled into entering the exchange out of coercion. The ads not only cause the child to want to buy the product, but they also cause them to eat more through priming when they see the commercials.
One of the duties that Carson lays out for sales people under this argument is that they don’t steer their customers to harmful products. Advertising unhealthy snacks to children goes against that duty as well. The product itself is not good for people, but combined with the dangers of the advertisements themselves it is even more unethical. They are causing them to consume even more of the harmful products they are selling and perpetuating the negative effects of them.