Summary of presentation by Cheryl Healton
Comparisons Between the Tobacco and Food Industries
Camel cigarettes, once smoked mainly by men, have more recently been marketed as a “light and luscious” brand to attract female smokers. This campaign has produced a 10 percent increase in brand affinity for young girls and no change in brand affinity for boys, said Healton. In a Tysons Chicken Nuggets ad, a succession of cute and very young children say
• “I don’t like tuna salad, lima beans, or casserole.”
• “Mushrooms look like aliens.”
• “Spinach? Not a big fan.”
• “They just look like dirty socks.”
• “I don’t like any of those stuff.”
Both ads appear to be to targeted to attract a young audience to a product brand. The chicken nugget ad not only sells its own product but unsells vegetables. Extensive formative research is used to develop products and ad campaigns like these that appeal to targeted audiences, said Healton. Advertising and sponsorship by the food industry are prevalent and largely unchallenged by the public. Furthermore, the number of unhealthy food products still being marketed points to a problem that voluntary efforts alone will not fix in the foreseeable future.
In general, brands are a means of self-expression for youth. Young people are particularly sensitive to the message they convey to peers through brand choices. Furthermore, the locking in of brand identity happens largely between ages 12 and 17, which is just above the cutoff age for restrictions on food marketing to children. The desire for self-expression heightens the need for personal choice. The tobacco industry frames smoking as a personal choice, and according to Healton, the food industry is following this lead (the food industry does not face issues such as second-hand smoke, which can harm other people). Framing the consumption of foods and beverages that contribute to poor diet and obesity as a personal choice dampens the public will to enact policies that would reduce the development, marketing, and consumption of these products.
Food industry executives are involved with shaping relevant policy, such as nutrition guidelines. Industry language often is adopted verbatim, argued Healton, and for a variety of reasons, government officials may value business interests over the public health. In addition, research has