Big Tobacco’s lessons for Big Food

In the good old days, the tobacco industry had a strategic marketing playbook script that worked something like this:

  • emphasize personal responsibility for choosing to smoke
  • pay scientists to deliver research that instills doubt about risks
  • criticize the “junk science” that finds harms associated with smoking
  • make self-regulatory pledges
  • lobby with massive resources to stifle government action
  • introduce “safer” products
  • simultaneously manipulate and deny both the addictive nature of tobacco products and marketing said products to children

The compelling question asked by researchers Drs. Kelly Brownell and Kenneth Warner is this: How does the script of the modern food industry compare to that tobacco industry script?  Continue reading

Whistleblowing is dangerous to your health

The Russell Crowe movie, The Insider, was an Academy Award-nominated film based on the true story of a corporate Big Tobacco whistleblower. Until he went public, Dr. Jeffrey Wigand had been Brown & Williamson’s $300,000-a-year research director, described by the Wall Street Journal as “the highest-ranking defector in the history of the tobacco industry”.

Dr. Wigand decided to go public by delivering a damning courtroom deposition against his employer – a move that eventually led to the tobacco industry’s $246 billion litigation settlement in 1998 to help pay for smoking-related health care bills in the U.S.

But it turns out that a conscientious employee like Dr. Wigand who blows the whistle on dangerous or illegal acts faces a significant personal health risk, too, according to research published in the BMJBritish Medical Journal.

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