Industry Tactics from “Coke Leaks”

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Using quotes from the leaked emails from the soda industry, this brief from Healthy Food America and Ninjas for Health illustrates the tactics the soda industry uses to achieve its business and political objectives. Internal executive emails from Coca-Cola show its coordinated global strategies to defeat sugary drink policies and influence dietary guidelines. The emails confirm what public health advocates have said for years – the beverage industry is following the tobacco industry’s playbook to fight health regulations worldwide. The emails reveal how the soda industry 1) funds studies that support its arguments, 2) pressures journalists, 3) lobbies against federal and international health policy, 4) deflects with self-regulation, 5) lies about grocery taxes, and 6) organizes fake grassroots opposition.

Healthy people and healthy profits? Elaborating a conceptual framework for governing the commercial determinants of non-communicable diseases

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) represent a significant threat to human health. Risks for many of the major NCDs are associated with the production, marketing and consumption of commercially produced food and drink, particularly those containing sugar, salt and transfats, alcohol and tobacco. Governing determinants of risk frequently brings public health into conflict with the interests of profit-driven food, beverage, alcohol and tobacco industries. In this article, authors use a conceptual framework to review three models of governance of NCD risk: self-regulation by industry; hybrid models of public-private engagement; and public sector regulation. They analyze the challenges inherent in each model, and review what is known (or not) about their impact on NCD outcomes. They identify reforms that will be needed to the global health architecture to govern NCD risks, including to strengthen its ability to consolidate the collective power of diverse stakeholders, its authority to develop and enforce clear measures to address risks, as well as establish monitoring and rights-based accountability systems across all actors to drive measurable, equitable and sustainable progress in reducing the global burden of NCDs.

Citation: Buse K, Tanaka S, Hawkes S. Healthy people and healthy profits? Elaborating a conceptual framework for governing the commercial determinants of non-communicable diseases and identifying options for reducing risk exposure. Global Health. 2017; 13(1):34.

Massachusetts consumer and health care groups called on lawmakers to rein in skyrocketing prescription drug prices

MASSPIRG, Health Care For All, Health Law Advocates and others urged the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Care Financing to support S.652, An Act to promote transparency and prevent price gouging of pharmaceutical drug prices. The bill requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to disclose detailed information on the underlying cost components and pricing of the most expensive drugs including costs of production, R&D, marketing, rebates and discounts, and prices charged to purchasers outside of the U.S., among other information. The bill also authorizes intervention by state health care agencies and the Attorney General’s Office when pricing practices are determined to be gouging or unjustified. “Skyrocketing prescription drug prices are leading to higher health care costs for Massachusetts residents,” said Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director at MASSPIRG. “In fact, according to an analysis of state data we submitted as testimony to the committee, rising pharmaceutical prices have a disproportionately high impact on Massachusetts health care premiums.”

America’s new tobacco crisis: The rich stopped smoking, the poor didn’t

July CHW update

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After decades of lawsuits, public campaigns and painful struggles, Americans have finally done what once seemed impossible: Most of the country has quit smoking, saving millions of lives and leading to massive reductions in cancer. Unless, reports The Washington Post, those Americans are poor, uneducated or live in a rural area. Hidden among the steady declines in recent years is the stark reality that cigarettes are becoming a habit of the poor. The national smoking rate has fallen to historic lows, with just 15 percent of adults still smoking. But the socioeconomic gap has never been bigger. Cigarette companies are focusing their marketing on lower income communities to retain their customer base, researchers say.  “Poorer people don’t smoke because anything’s different or wrong about them,” said Robin Koval, president of Truth Initiative, a leading ­tobacco-control nonprofit group. “Their communities are not protected like others are. They don’t have access to good health care and cessation programs. If you have a bull’s eye painted on your back, it’s harder to get away.”  Tobacco companies have also invested considerable resources in recent years lobbying against smoking restrictions and taxes, especially in poorer, rural and often Southern states, where smoking remains highest.

Broadening the Perspective on Gun Violence: An Examination of the Firearms Industry, 1990-2015

Firearm violence injures or kills 100,000 Americans each year. Research on firearm violence tends to focus on two elements-the host (i.e., victims of firearm violence) and the environment (i.e., gun policies)-but little attention has been paid to the agent (the gun and ammunition) or the vector (firearm manufacturers, dealers, and the industry lobby). Using Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives data, trends in firearm manufacturing were investigated from 1990 to 2015. Overall domestic firearms production decreased slightly from 1996 through 2004, and then steadily increased from 1.7% in 2005 to 13.8% in 2013, when >10 million firearms were produced for the domestic market. The increase in total firearm production was driven by the increased production of pistols and rifles. Within the pistol category, increased production was attributable to an increase in higher caliber weapons. Similar trends were observed in gun purchases and recovered and traced crime guns. Trends in firearm manufacturing reveal a shift toward more-lethal weapons, and this trend is also observed in gun purchases and crime gun traces. This may reflect a societal shift in cultural practices and norms related to guns and could inform strategies to reduce firearm violence.

Citation: Smith VM, Siegel M, Xuan Z, Ross CS, Galea S, Kalesan B, Fleegler E, Goss KA. Broadening the Perspective on Gun Violence: An Examination of the Firearms Industry, 1990-2015. Am J Prev Med. 2017. pii: S0749-3797(17)30258-1.

The Company We Keep: Lobbyists in the Trump Administration

President Trump promised to “drain the swamp” when he got to Washington. Yet his appointments have included not just former lobbyists, but dozens of lobbyists whose governmental responsibilities fall into the same specific issue areas that they lobbied within the last two years — an apparent violation of Trump’s own executive order on ethics. In a new report, Public Citizen identifies 37 recent hires with lobbying conflicts stemming from activity within the last two years, only four of whom have received ethics waivers.

Soda and Fast Food Lobbyists Push State Preemption Laws to Prevent Local Regulation

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When the city council of Santa Fe, New Mexico, placed a measure on the local ballot to tax sugary drinks earlier this year, writes Rob Waters in Forbes, the soda industry responded quickly, pouring $1.3 million into the anti-tax campaign. To cover their bases, industry lobbyists also pursued a back-up plan: they backed a bill in the state legislature to strip local governments of the power to levy such taxes. In the end, the state language was added to another bill that sailed through the New Mexico House before dying in a Senate committee, shortly before Santa Fe voters defeated the local soda tax. But as a growing number of cities consider and increasingly pass soda taxes and other measures designed to combat obesity and promote healthy eating, the food industry has turned to preemption, a strategy used extensively by the tobacco and gun lobbies.

Tracking the Effects of Corporate Practices on Health