Advertising works. It sells products; it influences public opinion. When marketing tactics counter healthy living, often government interferes, such as the regulations on tobacco advertising.
A new study reveals that infant formula ads reduce breastfeeding rates, thus begging the question: Should formula ads be restricted like tobacco?
The Globe and Mail reports:
Advertisements for infant formula can dramatically reduce breastfeeding rates, according to new research that is stirring the debate over the ethics of formula promotion…
The new study, led by the World Health Organization and published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, examined whether formula advertisements in the Philippines was responsible for that country’s drop in breastfeeding rates.
Researchers found that about 60 per cent of women surveyed recalled seeing a formula ad, making them twice as likely to bottle feed their babies as mothers who didn’t see ads.
The parallels between the tobacco and formula industry may seem like a stretch, until you consider that “During World War II, soldiers were issued with free cigarettes, courtesy of the tobacco companies.” Similarly:
In developed countries, the bottle versus breast debate hinges on the objections many critics have to formula companies promoting their products and giving away free samples in hospitals, as exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life is considered ideal.
In developing nations, the issue is much more serious. Bottle feeding in those countries has been linked to higher rates of infant deaths and other health problems because the water that is used to mix with formula can be contaminated, and many mothers may mix less than their babies need to make supplies last longer.
Free samples anyone?
The comparisons continue…
In 2007, when the Philippines tried to limit formula advertising, several companies selling formula took the issue to court. The court ruled against a ban on baby formula advertisements but clamped down on potentially misleading health claims and increased regulation of such ads.
The June 11 passage of the FDA Tobacco Regulation Bill, which provides the U.S. government with extensive power to regulate tobacco products, is a major step for federal regulation of cigarette manufacturers. The bill provides the Food and Drug Administration with its most expansive authority over the tobacco industry to date: not only does it grant the FDA the power to dictate product ingredients and overrule new products, it compels tobacco companies to eliminate potentially misleading labels like “light” and “mild,” regulate a product’s ingredients and increase the size of the warning labels on cigarette packs.
I understand the infant formula is a necessity in rare instances. Its use reminds of me of cesarean rates: the incidence is way higher than it should be. When breastfeeding is impossible, there are many solutions, such as milk banks, to ensure babies receive the food they were designed to consume.
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