Commercial Alert
JULY 22, 2004
3:58 PM
CONTACT:  Commercial Alert
Gary Ruskin (503) 235-8012
Congress Offers Legislation to Reduce Aggressive Marketing Aimed at Children

WASHINGTON - July 22 - Responding to growing outrage from parents and public health groups, Members of Congress have proposed a variety of ways to curb the aggressive tactics of advertisers and marketers who seek to influence the behavior of children and teens.

This new legislation also would give parents more control over the commercial influences in their children’s lives

Today, for example, Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-OR) introduced the Children’s Listbroker Privacy Act, which would prohibit corporations from selling the personal information of children below 16 years of age without parental consent.

“Parents shouldn’t have to worry about who is buying their children’s personal information,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert. “We applaud Congresswoman Hooley for standing up to listbrokers that violate the privacy of impressionable and unsuspecting children.”

At present, commercial listbrokers sell lists of the names and personal information of children as young as two years of age. For example, the Student Marketing Group sells a list of “Preschool children between the ages of 2 and 5,” according to its website. “Each record includes the child's full name, address, and age” and can include other information, such as gender and telephone number (

Another example: American Student List sells a list of “Over 20 million students ranging in age from 2-13,” ( according to its website.

Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ted Stevens (R-AK) introduced the Children’s Listbroker Privacy Act (S. 2160) in the Senate in March. The bill is a part of the Parents’ Bill of Rights (, a set of nine legislative proposals to restore to parents some control over the commercial influences on their children.

Here’s what other Members of Congress have done in recent months:

• The Senate approved on July 15th a tobacco bailout amendment (S. Amdt. 3563) offered by Sens. Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA). The amendment would give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate all advertising and marketing in the US, require health warnings to cover 30% of a cigarette pack, and ban sweet-flavored cigarettes.

• President Bush signed into law the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 on June 30th. The new law contains an amendment (Sec. 204 of S. 2507) by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) requiring local school boards to adopt wellness policies to promote health and reduce childhood obesity. The wellness policies must include nutrition guidelines for foods and beverages sold or served to children at school. School boards must adopt the wellness policies by the first day of the 2006-7 school year.

• Senator Harkin introduced an unusually wide-ranging public health measure on June 22nd, called the HeLP (Healthy Lifestyles and Prevention) America Act (S. 2558). It would: restore the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to enact rules to protect children from advertisers who take advantage of their vulnerable and trusting natures; eliminate the federal tax deductibility of tobacco advertising; give the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to (1) regulate the sale of junk food in schools and (2) prohibit advertising of food in schools participating in the School Lunch or Breakfast programs; grant the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco to safeguard public health; and require chain restaurants to provide basic nutrition information.

• Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) introduced the Children and Media Research Advancement Act (CAMRA) (S. 2447) on May 19th. It would allocate $90 million to research the effects of electronic media on children’s lives, health and development.

• Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Harkin have introduced the Menu Education and Labeling Act (H.R. 3444, S. 2108) which would require fast food restaurant chains to disclose calorie and nutritional contents of their food. These bills are also part of the Parents’ Bill of Rights.

• Last November, Sen. Harkin won a provision in the conference report on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2004 (H.R. 2673) to authorize $1 million for a “comprehensive review of the effects of food marketing on children's diet and health, including the characteristics of effective marketing of foods to children to promote healthy food choices.”

“Congress is finally beginning to acknowledge that raising children is the role of parents, not corporations,” Ruskin said. “It should swiftly pass all this legislation and the Parents’ Bill of Rights, to stop the epidemic of marketing-related diseases, and diminish the incessant huckstering at children.”

The American public wants new legal restrictions on the marketing industry. According to a Yankelovich Partners poll in April, 61% of Americans “feel the amount of marketing and advertising is out of control,” and 65% “think there should be more limits and regulations on marketing and advertising.” (To read the poll, go to