Catch Me If You Can: Big Food Using Big Tobacco’s Playbook? Applying the Lessons Learned from Big Tobacco to Attack the Obesity Epidemic

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Catch Me If You Can: Big Food Using Big Tobacco’s Playbook? Applying the Lessons Learned from Big Tobacco to Attack the Obesity Epidemic

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Title: Catch Me If You Can: Big Food Using Big Tobacco’s Playbook? Applying the Lessons Learned from Big Tobacco to Attack the Obesity Epidemic
Author: Malik, Rohit
Citation: Rohit Malik, Catch Me If You Can: Big Food Using Big Tobacco’s Playbook? Applying the Lessons Learned from Big Tobacco to Attack the Obesity Epidemic (2010).
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Abstract: This paper applies the lessons learned from the regulation of the tobacco industry to counter the obesity epidemic. The similarities between the tobacco industry and food industry are more than meets the eye. Both industries are dominated by a few major companies. Big Food and Big Tobacco both rely on marketing to lure children into buying their products, creating life-long customers. And, both industries focus on creating habits and addictions to keep children and adults to keep coming back for more. For decades, beginning in the mid-twentieth century, Big Tobacco has been the bulls-eye target for federal and state regulators as well as plaintiffs’ lawyers. And for decades, the tobacco industry managed to dodge the onslaught. Big Tobacco poured massive lobbying dollars into Congressional coffers, denied the science underlying the deadly and addictive effects of nicotine, and acted “socially responsible.” It then put a mask on, acquiring the major food companies and sometimes changing its brand name to burnish its public image in the American eye. By acquiring the food companies, Big Tobacco found the right partner in luring kids early through advertising. Now, the very food companies that Big Tobacco saw as relatively socially responsible are coming under attack for promoting the obesity crisis. And some of these food companies are using tactics from Big Tobacco’s playbook to evade the regulators and deny claims in court. Our nation waited for too long before it made inroads into regulating the nicotine that contributed to an epidemic of lung cancer, emphysema, and atherosclerosis. We cannot afford to wait again. We have to take active measures in adopting both a collaborative and regulatory approach to the food industry before the obesity epidemic becomes a crisis crippling our health care system, our workforce, and our children. This paper offers some proposals for regulating the food industry by exploring lessons from tobacco regulation.
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:8965631

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