Here is a great read from The Guardian by Nicholas Freudenberg, which highlights the top lessons from 50 years of fighting the tobacco industry that food advocates should keep in mind.
The present situation is described thusly:
“How has it come to pass that corporations now have a stronger influence on the health of Americans than public health officials, doctors or hospitals? How have corporations succeeded in convincing so many officials in the White House, Congress and the supreme court that protecting profits is a higher national priority than protecting public health?
In the last decades, a corporate consumption complex has solidified its influence on American politics and the economy. This web of consumer corporations, the bankers and hedge funds that lend them money, the trade associations that lobby for them, and the global ad agencies that market their products has been able to use its campaign contributions, lobbying and lawsuits to achieve its business goals even when the majority of Americans disagree with these. Like the military industrial complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned about before he left public office, the corporate consumption complex threatens our democracy as well as our health and environment.”
Here are the top 3 lessons:
- Efforts to reduce tobacco use succeeded when Americans came to believe that the right to breathe clean air trumped the tobacco’s industry’s right to promote its products without public oversight. Today, we need to mobilize parents to demand our children’s right not to be shot and not to be targeted by marketing of fast food, sugary beverages and snacks that have contributed to a 176% increase in the prevalence of diabetes between 1980 and 2011.”
Keep in mind that major food companies — including all of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ industry partners — have banded together for years to fight even *voluntary* standards on marketing to children.
- Part of the success in reducing smoking came from forcing Big Tobacco to reimburse state governments for the costs of caring for people with tobacco-related illnesses. Enacting policies that would require processed food producers to reimburse taxpayers and victims of the diet-related diseases exacerbated by their promotion of high fat, sugar and salt diets and alcohol producers for those injured or killed by the binge drinking.”
As much as Coca-Cola staunchly claims that there is zero evidence of soda’s negative effects on health, research studies not funded by industry state otherwise. We think it’s time for the Academy to stop providing Coca-Cola with a free health halo pass and cut ties.
- Fund independent hard-hitting prevention campaigns designed to undo the deceptive advertising Big Tobacco had sponsored. We can do the same thing by counterbalancing the media and ad campaigns today targeting young people to eat bad foods and glamorize guns.”
Part of Big Food and Big Soda’s deceptive campaigns include the creation of “institutes” that coincidentally cast their respective minimally nutritious products in a positive light.
As the article concludes, “in 1964, most observers thought it was politically impossible to defeat the tobacco industry and to bring about significant reductions in tobacco use. Today, changing the practices of the firearms, alcohol and processed food industries seems a similarly daunting task. But if we can apply the lessons from tobacco to accelerate changes in harmful business practices, perhaps we won’t need to wait another 50 years to prevent the deaths, illnesses, injuries and rising healthcare costs that today’s science could avert.”
In order for this paradigm shift to take place, it is crucial that health organizations hold the food industry accountable and join public health advocates in creating effective policies.