Video: Cereal Killers

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updated 1/23/2006 12:15:31 PM ET 2006-01-23T17:15:31
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Are Count Chocula and the Lucky Charms leprechaun evil instruments of a vast conspiracy to make your children fat?  Michael Jacobson thinks so.

Jacobson is executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest which plans to sue both Nickelodeon and the Kellogg company because it says they push sugar cereals on kids and thereby contribute to childhood obesity. 

He joined 'The Situation’ to discuss why parents should not have to carry the full blame for the effects sugar cereal has on children.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, 'SITUATION':  So this is the breaking news you bring to America, cereal companies target children when they try to sell sugared cereals. 

MICHAEL JACOBSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST:  You have an interesting way of putting it. 

The news is that food companies spend $10 billion a year, with sophisticated marketing techniques, going after 5-year-old kids.  And we're saying that when they're pushing junky foods, unhealthy foods on little kids, 5-year-olds, that that, under state law, is unfair and deceptive.  Deceptive to the kids, because they don't understand the difference between a program and an ad, and unfair to the parents, who don't need big companies interjecting themselves in what should be parental and family decisions. 

CARLSON:  Let me just say for the record that Lucky Charms is delicious and as far as I know packed with vitamins and minerals.  At least the box says so.

But here's the point, and here's why your theory falls down, in my opinion.  Kids don't buy cereal or anything else.  Parents do.  Parents are responsible for what their kids eat.  And they have direct control over what their kids eat for breakfast.  That's the whole point of being a parent, is to make sure your kids eat the right things.  So why are you suing the cereal question or the television network, when it's parents?

JACOBSON:  Parents certainly have a responsibility, but the advertising industry has something that it calls the nag factor.  They know that if you can get a kid to nag their parents time after time after time after time, eventually the parent are going to break down. 

But parents have a responsibility, and corporations have responsibilities, also.  Such as not being deceptive and not engaging in deceptive and unfair marketing practices. 

CARLSON:  OK.  So you're saying that children see these ads and they get so excited, they bother their parents until the parents buy the cereal.  And the parents really have no choice, because the kids are so persistent?  Is that what you're saying?  Because if that's what you're saying, the parents who cave to that kind of pressure are bad parents. 

JACOBSON:  That's really a side point.  Yes, parents have responsibility.

CARLSON:  Kids don't buy cereal, so it's the point.

JACOBSON:  The central point, Tucker, is this marketing practice unfair or deceptive.  The American Psychologists Association believes it is.  The Institute of Medicine has strongly criticized this kind of marketing, saying it's a direct threat to the health of young children. 

CARLSON:  OK.  Here's what's really going on, is if there is a guilty party in this—and I'm just assuming you're right, that these cereals are actually bad.  I found them delicious.  I'm 6'1”.  I grew up eating them.  I've done I'm OK. 

JACOBSON:  It's not just cereal.  It's hamburgers and French fries and all the garbage.

CARLSON:  It's all good.  But for the sake of argument, I'm going to agree with you that it's bad.  It's still the parents' fault.  And you don't want to sue the parent for two reasons.  One, it would make it obvious that you're the bad guy.  There goes Jacobson, suing parents again.  Right?  And two, parents don't have the money.  And for the greedy trial lawyers to get a payoff, they can't sue parents.  They've got to sue Kellogg's, right?

JACOBSON:  Well, we've told Kellogg and Nickelodeon that if we could reach some agreement we're not going to ask for one dime from them before we go to court.  And we hope they'll negotiate.

But it's so interesting to hear you, Mr. Conservative Values, not defending family values. 

CARLSON:  No, but I am defending. 

JACOBSON:  You seem to favor allowing industry to spend $10 billion a year to target innocent little kids.  It's nuts. 

CARLSON:  First of all, I don't think you ought to let your kids watch the programs where that stuff is advertised.  I don't let mine watch those programs, ever, and never have.

Two, we control what our kids eat.  That's why we're parents.  That's why we're not nannies, right?  That's the difference.  I'm for parents.  That's why I think parents have the power to prevent their kids from eating garbage if they want to enforce that power. 

Watch 'The Situation with Tucker Carlson' each weeknight at 11 p.m. ET

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