Ethics govern oneself about what should be the right and wrong ways to conduct (Doan & Stallemo, 2016) and it has considerable significance in the conduct of business. Kantianism and utilitarianism are ethical frameworks, which determine whether an act is right or wrong in different ways. In Kantianism, humans are supposed to behave rationally and they must not be used solely for the happiness of another (Palmer & Hedberg, 2013). Whereas, Utilitarians believe that humans must do actions that create the greatest amount of happiness (MacKinnon & Fiala, 2014). This essay argues that the costs of consuming unhealthy food exceeds any of the potential benefits (Trémolière & Bonnefon, 2014). This essay focuses on aspect of unethical behaviour in food marketing, in particular the harmful impacts of advertising unhealthy foods to children. It will point how advertising of unhealthy food to children may results in addiction to these type of food and its harmful effects on children’s health. Besides, the essay shows the positive perspective of advertisement of healthy food. Finally, the essay concludes that the advertisement of unhealthy food to children should be banned as they advocate the unhealthy way of life. Hence, the essay supports the fact it is morally not right for marketers to advertise unhealthy food to children.
Analysis and Discussion:
Advertising is a major marketing tool through which company practices different strategies to aim specific groups such as children to promote their products or services (De Mooij, 2013), particularly in encouraging the consumption of unhealthy food. Unhealthy food can be fast food or junk food. Fast food which have less nutritional value compared to other foods and dishes, yet they highly contain salt, sugar, saturated fat (Jaworowska, Blackham, Davies & Stevenson, 2013). Regular intake of fast food increases the risk of major health issues and complications such as colorectal cancer, high cholesterol and depression. Advertising is human activity directed at satisfying needs and want. From the utilitarian perspective, advertising can be considered as ethical if the advertiser have clear conscience and their act have good consequence, otherwise not. On the other hand, as we have already mentioned, a utilitarian perspective does not necessarily mean that marketing is ethical. If an advertiser says that eating food will add calorie to one’s body and is essential for staying healthy, then his act can be taken as ethical. On the contrary, if the advertiser intends to promote the habit of eating in order to increase his sales figure and earn more profit, then that act is considered unethical. From Kantianism perspective, there is nothing ethical about doing something if it makes one feel good or gain something. This concept makes ethics out of scope for advertisers.
Similarly, junk food is a food, which have artificial food colourings, preservatives, and low in nutrients. Regular eating of junk foods may cause diseases such as heart problems, bone problems, increase in blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, mental disorders many other health disorders (Moss, 2013). Thus, sales and promotion of junk food advertisements towards the younger generation affects their health noticeably in spite of the huge profits earned through selling of junk foods to them. From the Utilitarianism aspect, this practice is unethical as the costs of these decisions to raise consumption of unhealthy food options exceed any potential benefits. From the Kantianism aspect, the idea of somebody retaining the other for potential gains is extremely inhuman and unpardonable.
Correspondingly, the unhealthy food health habits of children encourage developing lifelong attitudes on undisciplined food habit and lifestyle choices, which can lead to serious health problems and early death. However, by keeping the profit interests in mind company advertises its product and present the product in its best light in order to encourage purchase. (Mehta et al., 2014). This encourage the children to buy and consume fast food or junk food on a regular basis. Besides having negative effects on the children’s academics, the unhealthy food consumption also increases risk of health diseases, harming the future generations. Hence, avoiding of fast food or junk food consumption improves one’s individual health as well as benefits society by reducing the national healthcare costs. Utilitarian theory would direct us to reduce unhealthy food consumption to minimize the external costs which society is forced to bear. From Kantian approach, promotion of unhealthy food results in violation of children’s right to live with dignity.
Another reason for addiction of unhealthy food is as follows. In earlier days, parents had time to prepare packed lunch for their children when going to school. However, in present days, most parents are unable of doing such things due to hectic schedules. Thus, parents just tend to give money to their children to purchase what they need. Sometimes, parents also provide snack for their children. Both school and parent should make the children aware about the ill effects of unhealthy food and make them realise that it is unethical to advertise unhealthy food to them. From the Kantianism approach, when children take something to eat then, then he/she acts by obeying his/her hungriness which is biological condition and thus he/she is not acting out of freedom. Obeying biological condition in accordance with the will of the outside world is considered as a heteronomous act. Advertising on fast food or junk food influence the child as well as create a desire to select a product or appealing to act immediately. In this way, it forces the child to act heteronomously which is not at all ethical.
In order to ensure that all children must grow and live healthily and lead a healthy life, then companies here must take the role of reducing marketing of unhealthy foods on one hand, and expand and increase marketing of healthy and nutritious food products and items on the other hand (Swinburn et al., 2015). Parents should advise and take care regarding the eating habits of their children and discourage unhealthy eating by highlighting the ill effects of such food habits. It is a huge responsibility and parents should not be blamed only for not taking care of their children’ food habit. There should be some action and programme from the government regarding banning of these food advertisements or at least preventing them during the children’ viewing hours (Witkowski, 2007).
Advertisers do not take the responsibility of judging the possible effects or outcomes of their advertisements on the health and psychology of children exposed to them. Thus, main focus of advertising unhealthy food is to maximize the company profit irrespective of what ill effects occur to children. Hence, utilitarian theory would instruct to protest against profit making practices of fast food companies and discourage fast food consumption. Certainly, this fact supports that it is not ethical to advertise unhealthy food to children.
It would be unfair to ban advertising of unhealthy foods to children since the concept of unhealthy foods have not been clearly defined anywhere. Consequently, it is critical to establish the exact guidelines for ‘acceptable’ foods to be advertised would appear (Kelly, Miller & King, 2012). Hence, a better choice would be to ban all types of food advertisement altogether. However, such action would make it impossible to use television (TV) and other media to promote healthy food choices. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the parent to decide what their children should eat or watch, not the food advertisement companies. If companies legitimately purchase advertising time during a TV program as long as the company comply with the rules and regulation, it is their discretion about what they want to advertise (Ni & Van Wart, 2015). The company who makes fast foods or junk foods is not responsible of taking care and warning children that too much of having such food will destroy their good health. It is duty of the parents to inform their children and make them aware of the harmful effect and negative impacts that fast foods or fjunk foods could bring (Boyland, Nolan, Kelly, Tudur-Smith, Jones, Halford & Robinson, (2016). Instead of blaming unhealthy food habits on only TV commercials or advertisements, parent should teach their children what is healthy life style and healthy food habit, what is not, and ultimately children must make their own choices regarding this (King, Hebden, Grunseit, Kelly & Chapman, 2013). One of Kantianism main objections to Utilitarianism is that instead, people are utilised as an end in themselves; it could utilise a people as a way to an end. As the children cannot fully understand the intent behind the advertising, in view of Kantianism all advertisement can be classified as deception. Kantianism dismiss any type of lies or deception, irrespective of the outcome.
Thus, it can be concluded that although advertising helps people to make their decision of purchasing a product or service, yet exposing them to children has got some serious and unavoidable consequences, notably health effects and psychological effects due to their incapability to filter and process the information they receive. However, exposure of advertisements to children is unavoidable. Yet, the negative impact of the advertisement can be minimised. For instance, besides guiding children on how to properly deal with the messages they receive from advertising, parents should nurture environment for their children that should enrich self-esteem of children and promote educational and healthy hobbies among them. Utilitarianism leads to conclude that abstaining from unhealthy food consumption practice is the most ethical decision from a health standpoint as well as from a societal standpoint. From Kantian perspective, children must be treated as an end in themselves and not as objects for capitalising sales and profits. Thus, advertising to children is any way not ethical. Conclusively, banning of advertisements of unhealthy foods is the best solution as it provide a better future for children. Hence, it is morally not right for marketers to advertise unhealthy food to children.
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