Is Big Food as Evil as Big Tobacco?

Stunning observations. Here’s where marketing can become evil indeed…

Last month, the Milbank Quarterly published a paper (pdf) with the provocative-if-unwieldy title “The Perils of Ignoring History: Big Tobacco Played Dirty and Millions Died. How Similar Is Big Food?”

“Eerily similar, according to one of the authors, Kelly Brownell, a psychologist and director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

The highlights: Both industries dismiss legitimate scientific studies as “junk science” if those studies conclude anything remotely negative about their products; both put scientists on their payrolls to make it appear that there is a lack of scientific consensus about the bad health effects of their products; both market products that are supposedly “safer”; both have knowingly marketed unhealthy products to children; and both devote vast resources to lobbying…” More here.


I wonder if this sort of plague on our lives is just inevitable, given our current values.

After all, it is not big industry or a company that does these things…it is people there who make decisions to deny or just hide negative stuff from us (the public). When it affects so many millions of people, we notice. And get mad.

But it starts with each one of us. Although that’s too small a scale for the media to get up in arms, the people affected know it.

Haven’t we all, as individuals, kept information from people at some point?

We all tell others that an opportunity we are selling is easy, that anyone can do it. Yet we do NOT tell up front how many people (most who start) don’t make it.

It’s easy to gloss over that.

Same when people in the big food and tobacco industry deny or don’t tell what looks bad. After all, everyone who smoked didn’t die of cancer did they? Everyone who eats junk food isn’t obese or sickly, are they?

Worse, it’s not just marketers who get away with this…they couldn’t pull it off if they didn’t have a cooperating public.

Isn’t it people who continue to buy junk food or maintain habits we all know aren’t healthy?

It’s as if we, the consumers, want to be deceived – lulled into believing it’s ok to eat sugary starchy stuff because it’s easier to keep those habits than to change them once and for all.

Sellers wouldn’t be making all the junk food (or cigarettes) if no one bought it. Would they?

About the author

Kim Klaver


  • It takes two to allow marketers to be evil. Sigh.

    Hi Kim,

    It takes more than two. It also takes the public school system which is designed to dumb us down and look to outside sources for guidance. It also takes TV “programming” which the dumbed-down populace looks to for what they need to want and do to “fit in.”

    It is, indeed, a tangled web of deceit and dollars.


    Rebuilding my Organic Foods Mom website.

    These are the gadgets that allow you to sign your name to your website, and other cool stuff.

  • Hi Kim,
    Ain’t it the truth. If people really took the considerable power they have and took total responsibility for their health, there would be a major revolt and we would not have these food problems. Unfortunately apathy, laziness, bad habits and big money contribute to it all.
    Get educated, wise up and stop buying junk food.

  • I am not one to get involved in standing up for the tobacco companies, because inevitably what they did was wrong. I do not think that the fast food chains are similar because they do not lace Big Mac’s with ‘addictive substances’ that triggers brain reactors to have to go out there and get one. So – I think that comparison is apples and oranges.

    However, I do say that at some point PEOPLE have to be held RESPONSIBILE for their own actions. Seriously, if a 350# man eats a Big Mac and drops dead of a heart attack, it should be obvious that he has made poor health choices for some time and the one Big Mac (the company that prepared it for him or marketed it) can be held responsible. Now, if that Franchise held the man captive in their basement for a years time, made him eat Big Mac’s, French Fries, and large sodas — then the FRANCHISE has liability issues. Other than that, lets all stop the lawsuit nonsense. Thanks much.

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