THE BLOG

Fast Food is Poison. Why Are We Still Selling it?

10/16/2013 06:04 EDT | Updated 12/16/2013 05:12 EST

I used to work in the big bad world of mainstream advertising, so trust me on this one.

Fast food is this generation's tobacco.

Both products are poison.

And yet, we're still selling one.

We're advertising fast food -- and what's worse, we're advertising it to kids. In my opinion, it's as unethical as advertising tobacco. Remember the fights a generation ago about smoking in public? Or about warning labels a generation before that? We need to have those public fights about fast food today.

We could start with warning labels--going one step beyond nutritional information--on fast food and sugary drinks. Last year, the Ontario Medical Association called for warning labels on fast food.

Last week, Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews got the ball rolling by announcing fast-food joints will be forced to list calories on menus and menu boards . That's one step in the right direction.

She also suggested the government will look to reduce advertising for unhealthy food and beverages to kids -- a very important and very necessary move.

But the real solution is simple: we need to stick it to fast food.

My firm launched a month-long boycott of fast food with Ontario high-school students around this time last year.

Beyond just promoting a month-long boycott, the initiative was educational. We shared recipes and simple ideas for students (and their parents) to make healthy, yummy, affordable food. Because fast food won't change -- it's made by scientists in white lab coats to be as cheap and addictive as possible -- the only way to stick it to fast food is to replace fast food with quick and delicious real food.

(Don't believe me that fast food is made by scientists to be as cheap and addictive as possible? Check out Michael Moss's investigative book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Fast Food Giants Hooked Us.)

Our campaign was all about promoting healthy food as much as it was about boycotting fast food.

But here's the thing: we couldn't get a sponsor. Not the Heart & Stroke Foundation, not the Diabetes Association, not any level of government.

We pulled off a great campaign when we partnered with Virgin Mobile, MuchMusic, Roots and the Ministry of the Environment to encourage people to FLICK OFF to tackle global warming.

But our Stick It campaign was our firm and some high schoolers against the world.

It engaged a great group of students across the province. Was it a failure? No. It just wasn't the success I wanted it to be. We didn't have the resources.

Maybe small initiatives like Stick It, though, are how it starts, how we start to fight back against fast food.

If the Ontario Ministry of Health is starting to push back against fast food and help kids make better choices, that's a good sign.

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