School-Advertising Bills Put Lobbyists on Alert

WASHINGTON — Advertising lobby groups are urging their members to oppose two bills introduced in the Maryland legislature that would restrict ads in schools and impose nutritional requirements on school vending-machine products.

In a memo sent to its Maryland members last week, the American Advertising Federation warned, “The ultimate result of both of these pieces of legislation would be a reduction in commercial agreements, which would have a negative effect on reducing both services and products available to students.”

The first bill requires schools to notify parents in writing that advertising will be used in classrooms. The bill also prohibits ads on school buses, prevents students from filling out marketing surveys and stops schools from giving marketers students’ names or addresses. The second bill requires schools to limit the amount of junk food sold in vending machines. A bill recently introduced in the Virginia legislature would remove all public-school vending machines.

State lawmakers blame advertising for the amount of junk food students consume. The issue has taken on added importance, as public-health experts link a rise in obesity with diabetes.

The AAF argues that advertising is not the culprit. “Part of our concern is the attitude states are taking toward advertising-that it is a negative thing and has a negative effect on students,” said Clark Rector, AAF vp of state government affairs. In a time where many states have deficits, advertising and vending contracts pay for school programs and resources that include computers, he added.

Dan Jaffe, evp of government relations for the Association of National Advertisers, said the issue of having ads in schools should be decided by parents and educators. “Parents know what ads are,” he said. “And they have to decide whether the money that comes to the schools from advertising is valuable enough. No one is forcing them to do this.”

Lawmakers are expected to hold hearings on the legislation in the next few months.