New legislation introduced in the U.S. House yesterday would prohibit the use of federal money for advertisements attacking products like Coke and Pepsi.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) introduced the bill to counter a growing trend of anti-obesity ads that are funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Scribe reported in October the money was included in President Obama’s economic stimulus law.
The federal government has provided $230 million in funding to at least 25 communities for a variety of anti-obesity measures, including advertisements.
The city came under fire again last week after the New York Times reported the Bloomberg administration doctored a photo of man with an amputated leg. The person pictured in the $500,000 ad campaign has both of his legs; the city’s health department confirmed the advertising agency removed one of them to more effectively show a possible consequence of type 2 diabetes.
New York City received $15.5 million in federal funding for its anti-obesity efforts. While it has generated most of the attention for its eye-catching ads, other cities are engaging in similar practices. In Philadelphia, the city spent $2.4 million on ads attacking soda. Campaigns have also popped up in Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle and even Topeka, KS.
The 2009 stimulus, of course, was sold to Congress as a plan to revive the economy by creating or saving millions of jobs. According to Smart Taxpayers Exposing Waste, a campaign launched by the American Beverage Association, Philadelphia could have used the money it spent on ads to hire 52 police officers, 54 firemen, 57 paramedics, 58 teachers or 88 EMTs.
While not all of the $230 million provided by the CDC funded anti-obesity advertisements, critics like DesJarlais have taken aim at the money because it attacked American-made products.
“Our top priority should be restarting the economy and creating jobs – not funding scare campaigns against perfectly safe and legal products,” DesJarlais said. “At a time when our nation faces high unemployment, it makes absolutely no sense that federal and city agencies would aggressively advertise against American products made by American workers.”