shown that the results of studies sponsored by the food industry tend to favor the industry (Vartanian et al., 2007). Here again there are parallels with the tobacco industry, which has sought to influence science and perceptions of science. Tobacco companies notoriously bought a great deal of biased science for the purpose of creating a debate about the health effects of tobacco (Hirschhorn et al., 2001).

Finally, selling tobacco is profitable to the tobacco industry, just as selling food is profitable to the food industry, said Healton. The tobacco industry realizes it needs to create young adult smokers if it is to survive. Similarly, as Brownell and Warner (2009) have written, “If consumers’ demand for food were to reflect what they needed to maintain a healthy weight, the market would contract.”

A Countermarketing Campaign

Healton advocated for a large national food countermarketing campaign that would be funded by a variety of mechanisms and be independent of the food industry. As an example, she cited the truth® campaign, a branded national smoking prevention campaign designed to reach at-risk youth aged 12-17, primarily through edgy television ads with an anti-tobacco industry theme. For example, the first ad piled 1,200 body bags around Philip Morris’s downtown headquarters in New York City. A similar ad would be legitimate if it piled 500 body bags around a multinational food company, representing the number of people who die in the United States alone every day from obesity, said Healton.

The truth® campaign was financed through the master settlement agreement between the state attorneys general and the tobacco industry. As part of the settlement, a foundation was created to undertake a public education campaign. In its first 4 years, that campaign cost more than $500 million. However, such a campaign might be less expensive today because of the Internet, which costs less than television to reach young people.

The truth® campaign created a brand that competed head to head with industry brands. It spoke to teens in their own voices and did not talk down to them. It highlighted the actions of the tobacco industry in marketing cigarettes, including the failure to be truthful about cigarettes’ addictiveness and health effects. It capitalized on the natural rebelliousness of teens to encourage them to define themselves in opposition to the tobacco industry.

The campaign engaged in strong and ongoing evaluation. According to a 2002 article in the American Journal of Public Health (Farrelly et al., 2002), 75 percent of all U.S. youth aged 12-17 could accurately describe a truth® ad, and awareness was linked to attitude and belief change. Farrelly and colleagues (2005) also found that 22 percent of the U.S. decline in youth smoking from 1999 to 2002 could be attributed to the campaign,

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement