June 6th, 2007

An Act Relative to the Public Health Impact of Commercialism in Schools

By Representative Peter Koutoujian
Massachusetts House of Representatives

School-aged children are bombarded with advertisements. In fact, many view up to 30,000 television ads per year. Whereas companies spent $100 million in the early 1980s marketing their products to children, they now spend upwards of $17 billion. Schools have become an increasingly popular place for companies to market their products as a captive audience of students. Many cash-strapped school districts use advertising revenue to plug budget gaps. In 2000, the federal General Accounting Office identified marketing in schools as a growth industry.

A recent Institute of Medicine report on food and beverage marketing to youth finds that “the commercial advertising and marketing of foods and beverages influences the diets and health of children and youth.”

Marketing is a factor in childhood obesity, youth violence, sexuality, eating disorders, family conflict, and increased materialism.

Children spend seven hours a day – nearly half their waking hours – in school.  More than 7 out of 10 Massachusetts school districts have contracts with beverage companies permitting the sale of their products on school grounds. Most are “exclusive advertising rights” which permit the companies to buy exclusive rights to sell, market, and advertise their products within a school or school system.

Rep Koutoujian’s bill, “An Act relative to the public health impact of commercialism in schools,” would prohibit companies from advertising their products on public school grounds. It would also prohibit companies from providing any type of promotional items or gifts – other than their primary products – which bear the mark or brand name of the manufacturer’s products. It is the strongest school commercialism legislation in the country and would provide children with a needed safe-haven from advertising and marketing that undermines their wellbeing.

The full text of the proposed legislation can be found here:

An Act relative to the public health impact of commercialism in schools.pdf

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