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PHAI Releases Major Report on Digital Food Marketing to Youth: Urges State Attorneys General to Act

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

December 19, 2013

The Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) at Northeastern University School of Law, along with our partners at the Center for Digital Democracy and Berkeley Media Studies Group, today releases State Law Approaches to Address Digital Food Marketing to Youth.  It is a first-of-its kind resource that provides an evidence base and action steps grounded in state law.  State attorneys general and other stakeholders in children’s health and privacy can use it to put a stop to troubling digital marketing practices that deceive youth and their parents.

In addition to clear explanations of how digital marketing works and why it poses privacy and health risks to youth, key legal issues for state regulators are explored.  These issues include personal jurisdiction over out-of-state food and beverage marketing and media companies; the interplay of federal and state laws regulating mobile marketing; and the application of state promotions laws to child consumers.

Key findings include:

Senior Staff Attorney, Cara Wilking, who was lead author of the report, noted that, “state attorneys general are in a unique position to leverage state law approaches to stop unfair, deceptive, or otherwise illegal digital marketing of unhealthy foods to our youngest and most vulnerable consumers.”

PHAI’s Executive Director, Mark Gottlieb, added, “there is a general failure to understand the disturbing marketing practices that are becoming commonplace in the digital marketing world. This report goes a long way toward closing the knowledge gap between those using powerful technology to sell junk to kids and those who have the responsibility to protect them.”

State Law Approaches to Address Digital Food Marketing to Youth Report

Support for State Law Approaches to Address Digital Food Marketing to Youth was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundations Healthy Eating Research Program (#69293).

 

 



PHAI researchers co-author article in AJPH describing how health advocates battling the food and beverage industry can learn by looking back at the smoking and health crisis of the late 1950s and early 60s

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Richard Daynard, Lissy Friedman, and Mark Gottlieb have co-authored an article published today in the American Journal of Public Health, along with our research partners from Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG). The article is entitled: “Cigarettes Become a Dangerous Product: Tobacco in the Rearview Mirror, 1952–1965.”

BMSG’s press release appears below:

Nutrition advocates may be able to use lessons from tobacco control to help government move faster toward protecting the public from harmful food and beverage company products and marketing practices, say the authors of a new study published today by the American Journal of Public Health.

In a content analysis of public and internal documents, the authors, from Berkeley Media Studies Group and the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law, examined national newspapers, tobacco industry documents and the Congressional Record and Congressional Index between 1952 and 1965 to learn how health harms from cigarettes were framed in the early days of anti-tobacco advocacy.

The study found that news coverage of tobacco focused primarily on its health harms — not who was responsible for addressing them. Much as nutrition advocates often see headlines today about sugary drinks, junk food or other products that fuel disease, pre-1965 conversations about cigarettes were typically disconnected from the industry that produced them.

As such, the personal responsibility rhetoric the tobacco industry became known for in the 1980s and beyond — rhetoric that food and beverage companies have borrowed and are using today to forestall government regulation and shift blame for their products’ health harms onto the consumers who buy them — was all but absent from both news coverage and industry documents. Instead, tobacco companies focused on raising doubts about cigarettes’ links to lung cancer. More than three-quarters of tobacco industry documents denied that cigarettes are harmful to health, with industry spokespeople claiming that the causes of cancer are complex and more research was needed. The industry also discussed cigarettes’ alleged benefits, such as a “feeling of well-being and refreshment.”

What little discussion there was of culpability identified both individuals and industry as sharing blame for the problem and, strikingly given today’s political discourse, called upon government to act.

“The backdrop for early tobacco control was wildly different from today’s political climate,” Lori Dorfman, the study’s lead author and director of the Berkeley Media Studies Group, said. “Profound distrust of the government has made it harder for public health advocates to make the case for protections from harmful products. In the 60s, a belief in government’s duty to act to protect public health was the norm.”

According to the study, government action was contested only in internal industry documents, not public discussion. News coverage and legislative documents questioned not whether the government should act, but how.

Nevertheless, once the dangers of cigarettes were established, actions were individually oriented and related mostly to providing consumers with more education and warnings about smoking’s health harms.

“We now take for granted how effective tobacco taxes and indoor smoking bans are,” study author and Public Health Advocacy Institute Director Mark Gottlieb said. “But moving tobacco control efforts from smoking cessation to industry regulation happened over the long haul.”

The study authors suggest that advocates now pushing for healthier food environments may be able to do the same, shifting attention from unhealthy foods and beverages to the companies that manufacture and market them. However, they will have to do so within a changed, and more challenging, political context.

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Article abstract link: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2013.301475

Ciation: Dorfman L, Cheyne A, Gottlieb MA, Mejia P, Nixon L, Friedman LC, Daynard RA. Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print November 14, 2013. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301475.

About Berkeley Media Studies Group

Berkeley Media Studies Group researches the way public health issues are characterized in the media and helps community groups, journalists and advocates use the media to advance healthy public policy. BMSG is a project of the Public Health Institute.

About Public Health Advocacy Institute

The Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) is a legal research center focused on public health law at Northeastern University School of Law. PHAI’s goal is to support and enhance a commitment to public health in individuals and institutes who shape public policy through law. PHAI is committed to research in public health law, public health policy development; to legal technical assistance; and to collaborative work at the intersection of law and public health. Their current areas of work include tobacco control and childhood obesity.

 Contact:

Heather Gehlert, BMSG
(510) 704-3471, gehlert@bmsg.org



PHAI’s Daynard Signs on to Report: Why Casinos Matter

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

PHAI’s President and University Distinguished Professor of Law at Northeastern University, Richard A. Daynard, has joined more than 30 other scholars from a variety of disciplines around the country who have signed on to a report  issued by the non-profit and non-partisan Institute for American Values. The report, “Why Casinos Matter,” provides 31 evidence-based reasons why American casinos need to be understood in terms of how they are significantly affecting our cultural, economic, political, and public health landscape.

The 31 reasons are:

The Rise of the New American Casino
1. Casino gambling has moved from the margins to the mainstream of American life.
2. Today’s regional casinos are different from Vegas-style resort casinos.

The Casino’s Modern Slot Machines
3. The new American casino is primarily a facility filled with modern slot machines.
4. A modern slot machine is a sophisticated computer, engineered to create fast, continuous, and repeat betting.
5. Modern slot machines are carefully designed to ensure that the longer you play, the more you lose.
6. Modern slot machines are highly addictive.
7. Modern slot machines are engineered to make players lose track of time and money.

The Casino’s Health Impact
8. Casinos depend on problem gamblers for their revenue base.
9. Living close to a casino increases the chance of becoming a problem gambler.
10. Problem gambling is more widespread than many casino industry leaders claim.
11. Problem gambling affects families and communities as well as individuals.
12. Young people are viewed as the future of casino gambling.
13. Working in a casino appears to increase workers’ chances of having gambling problems.
14. Working in a casino appears to increase workers’ chances of having health problems.

The Casino’s Economic Impact
15. The benefits of casinos are short-term and easy to measure while many of their costs are longer-term and harder to measure.
16. Casinos extract wealth from communities.
17. Casinos typically weaken nearby businesses.
18. Casinos typically hurt property values in host communities.

The Casino’s Political Impact
19. Casinos are the creation of state government and its public policies.
20. State regulation of casinos creates a conflict of interest, in which the state is charged with protecting the public from the very business practices that generate revenue for the state and which the state is co-sponsoring.
21. States are typically failing to protect their citizens from the harms of state-sponsored casino gambling.
22. States are typically failing to provide adequate help for the treat-ment of problem and compulsive gambling.
23. Some states are propping up failing casinos.
24. Over time, casino expansion within a state and in nearby states can create a downward economic spiral of market saturation, sluggish state revenues, and failing casinos, marked by an ever-growing competition in which each state tries to lure other states’ citizens into its casinos.
25. Regional casinos are a regressive source of revenue for the states.

The Casino’s Intellectual Impact
26. Research on gambling in America is largely funded by the gambling industry.
27. Research on gambling funded by the gambling industry focus¬es overwhelmingly on the individual pathology and pharmacology of gambling addiction while avoiding research into machine design, player profiling, and other industry practices and technological innovations that foster gambling addiction.

The Casino’s Social Meaning
28. State sponsorship of casinos is a policy contributing to patterns of inequality in America.
29. State sponsorship of casinos raises troubling ethical questions about fairness and equal treatment of citizens.

The Casino’s Historical Meaning
30. Encouraging people to put their money into slot machines has historically been viewed as unethical.
31. Encouraging legal gambling as “fun” entertainment and an all-American pastime is a historically new development.

As predatory casino gambling continues to permeate the nation, there is an urgent need to understand the impact it is having.

Download the full report here.



PHAI’s Wilking interviewed in Huff Post for Michele Simon’s “Ask a Food Lawyer” feature

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

WilkingPhoto0913

Cara Wilking

Michele Simon is a public health lawyer specializing in industry marketing and lobbying tactics. She is the author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back, and president of Eat Drink Politics, an industry watchdog consulting business.

Ms. Simon asks PHAI’s senior staff attorney, Cara Wilking, about deceptive food marketing to kids, concerns about food industry self-regulation of marketing practices, technical assistance we provide, and what PHAI and lawyers like Cara can contribute to the good food movement.

Access the interview here.

 

 



New study finds McDonald’s and Burger King responsible for 99% of fast-food television ads for kids, suggests industry’s efforts to self-regulate its marketing practices are ineffective

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Fast-food companies emphasize toy giveaways and movie tie-ins rather than food products when marketing to kids on television, which suggests that industry is not abiding by its self-regulatory pledges for child-directed marketing, according to a study co-authored by the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law. The study, “How Television Fast Food Marketing Aimed at Children Compares with Adult Advertisements,” is published in PLOS ONE and found that among ads for children’s meals, toy giveaways appeared in 69 percent of ads and movie tie-ins were used in 55 percent of ads.

“Fast-food companies use free toys and popular movies to appeal to kids and their ads are much more focused on promotions, brands, and logos—not on the food,” said James Sargent, Professor of Pediatrics at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the lead author of the study. “These are techniques that the companies’ own self-regulatory body calls potentially misleading and it’s a clear sign that they’re not living up to their pledges about marketing to kids.”

Sargent and his colleagues examined all nationally televised ads for children’s meals by leading fast-food restaurants for one year, from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. They compared ads for kids with ads for adults from the same companies to assess whether self-regulatory pledges for food marketing to children had been implemented.

 Key findings include:

Leaders of the food and beverage industry have publicly recognized the need to reform marketing practices targeting children. In 2006, the Council of Better Business Bureaus launched the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), a voluntary pledge by major U.S. food manufacturers to advertise only healthier products to young children. McDonald’s and Burger King participate in the CFBAI. Both companies also have pledged to abide by marketing guidelines set by the Children’s Advertising Review Unit, which include a provision stating that food—not toys or other promotions—should be the primary focus of ads directed at kids.

“This study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that there’s a big gap between what industry has promised and what they’re actually doing when it comes to marketing to kids,” said Cara Wilking, J.D. of the Public Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law. “There comes a point when intervention by a regulatory body like the Federal Trade Commission or state Attorneys General is needed to address self-regulatory failures. These findings suggest we’ve reached it with respect to fast food marketing to kids.”

A recent report by the Federal Trade Commission found that among all U.S. food and beverage companies, fast-food companies spent the most on marketing directed at youths ages 2 to 17—more than $714 million in 2009. The report also found that fast-food companies have dramatically increased their spending on television ads and new media targeting kids ages 2 to 11. Further analysis of that report shows while some fast-food restaurants slightly improved the nutritional quality of kids’ meals, the number of child-directed television ads for other higher-calorie meals and menu items more than doubled from 2006 to 2009.

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Study of State Cheeseburger Bills Finds They Go Well Beyond “Tort Reform”

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Cheeseburger Bills or Common Sense Consumption Acts (CCAs) were spearheaded by the National Restaurant Association as well as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and have been enacted in 26 states. Media coverage and legislative debates about CCAs were dominated by themes of personal responsibility and the need for tort reform to protect businesses from frivolous litigation. A recent study just published in the Food and Drug Law Journal by PHAI’s Cara Wilking, J.D. and Richard A. Daynard, J.D., Ph.D. analyzes the

fdlj-cover

25 CCAs enacted between 2003 and 2012, and found they go well-beyond tort reform. Key findings from “Beyond Cheeseburgers: The Impact of Commonsense Consumption Acts on Future Obesity-Related Lawsuits” include:

The health harms of tobacco are well-known and linked to corporate misconduct. In the late 1990’s, tobacco litigation brought by State Attorneys General resulted in individual settlements by four states to recover smoking-related Medicaid costs. Forty-six states and territories negotiated the Master Settlement Agreement securing annual payments of several billion dollars in perpetuity as repayment for smoking-related healthcare costs.

Between 2008 and 2010, adult obesity rates increased in a total of 16 U.S. states, 11 of which are CCA states. The CCA states of Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee are among the top five states with the highest rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension. The current medical cost of adult obesity in the U.S. is estimated at $147-$210 billion per year, $61.8 billion of which is paid for by Medicare and Medicaid (Levi et al. 2012). The twenty-sixth CCA was passed in North Carolina in 2013 and they continue to be introduced in state legislatures. “A close analysis of CCAs reveals that the real point of the CCA proponents was not to prevent frivolous litigation, from which industry already had plentiful protection, but rather to limit legally and factually sound tobacco-style litigation, which might eventually have harmed industry’s bottom line and forced it to change its practices,”  said Cara Wilking, J.D.

“Beyond Cheeseburgers: The Impact of Commonsense Consumption Acts on Future Obesity-Related Lawsuits” was published in the Food and Drug Law Journal and is reproduced with the permission of the Food and Drug Law Institute.

This research was supported by award #2R01CA087571 from the National Cancer Institute. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Cancer Institute or the National Institutes of Health.

 



PHAI publishes new resource: http://SmokeLitigation.org

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

PHAI has just published a new website consisting of searchable summaries of over 600 secondhand smoke lawsuits based in the United States.  The cases stretch back to the 1970s and the data was most recently updated in July, 2013.  We will continue to update the site and add new cases as well as indicate developments in existing cases.

The project is the work of our Senior Attorney Edward Sweda, who began compiling “Ed’s List” about 25 years ago.  The list has been published in the Tobacco Products Litigation Reporter and used by many tobacco control organizations and individuals seeking legal redress to smoke exposure problems.  The project would not have made it to the web but for the efforts of our summer intern, Rebecca Leff, who copied and formatted a 133 page single spaced document to create 628 case entries.

The site is searchable by type of case, e.g., custody disputes, real property, smoking in prisons, or litigation against tobacco companies, as well as the state where the action was filed.

Visit SmokeLitigation.org



PHAI Publishes Legal Issue Brief on Digital Viral Food Marketing to Kids

Friday, March 8th, 2013

viral_digital_food_marketing_brief_graphic

Food companies used viral digital marketing tactics, such as “tell-a-friend” web campaigns, to induce children to share e-mail addresses of their friends and spread brand advertising of unhealthy foods among their peers.  Even very young children are targeted by these campaigns, which may be considered unfair and deceptive and in violation of state consumer protection laws.

PHAI has prepared a legal issue brief on this topic for state attorneys general as well as stakeholders in children’s health and privacy.  The brief explains the tactics that are used and suggests ways that they can be addressed, particularly under state law.

This work was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research Program (#69293).



PHAI’s Friedman and Gottlieb Co-author: “Soda and Tobacco Industry Corporate Social Responsibility Campaigns: How Do They Compare?” in PLoS Medicine

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

PHAI senior staff attorney Lissy Friedman and executive director Mark Gottlieb collaborated with Lori Dorfman, Andrew Cheyne and Asiya Wadud of the Berkeley Media Studies Group to produce this article published today in PLoS Medicine.

Soda companies’ PR campaigns are bad for health:

Health advocates need to organize strong public health campaigns to educate the public and policymakers about the dangers of both sugary beverages and the misleading industry corporate social responsibility campaigns that distract from their products’ health risks, according to US experts writing in this week’s PLoS Medicine.

In a Policy Forum article, the authors (media and public health experts from the Berkeley and Boston, USA) examined prominent campaigns from industry leaders PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, that, according to the authors, have embraced corporate social responsibility (CSR) with elaborate, expensive, and multinational campaigns.

The authors say that while soda companies may not face the level of social stigmatization or regulatory pressure that now confronts Big Tobacco, concern over soda and the obesity epidemic is growing.

In response to health concerns about their products, the authors argue that soda companies have launched comprehensive CSR initiatives sooner than did tobacco companies but that these campaigns echo the tobacco industry’s use of CSR as a means to focus responsibility on consumers rather than the corporation, bolster the companies’ and products’ popularity, and to prevent regulation.

However, unlike tobacco CSR campaigns, soda company CSR campaigns explicitly target young people and aim to increase sales.

The authors say: “It is clear that the soda CSR campaigns reinforce the idea that obesity is caused by customers’ “bad” behavior, diverting attention from soda’s contribution to rising obesity rates.” They continue: “For example, CSR campaigns that include the construction and upgrading of parks for youth who are at risk for diet-related illnesses keep the focus on physical activity, rather than on unhealthful foods and drinks. Such tactics redirect the responsibility for health outcomes from corporations onto its consumers, and externalize the negative effects of increased obesity to the public.”

The authors argue: “Emerging science on the addictiveness of sugar, especially when combined with the known addictive properties of caffeine found in many sugary beverages, should further heighten awareness of the product’s public health threat similar to the understanding about the addictiveness of tobacco products.”

They conclude: “Public health advocates must continue to monitor the CSR activities of soda companies, and remind the public and policymakers that, similar to Big Tobacco, soda industry CSR aims to position the companies, and their products, as socially acceptable rather than contributing to a social ill.”

This article is one in a PLoS Medicine series on Big Food that examines the activities and influence of the food and beverage industry in the health arena. The series runs for three weeks beginning 19 June 2012 and all articles will be collected at www.ploscollections.org/bigfood. Twitter hashtag #plosmedbigfood

Funding: This research was supported by the Healthy Eating Research program (http://www.healthyeatingresearch.org/) of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, grant #68240. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Download the article here.



PHAI Releases New Resources to Use Law to Fight Junk Food Marketing to Kids

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Food and beverage marketing targeting children is a major focus of the food and beverage industry because, as the Institute of Medicine’s report on the subject bluntly declared, “marketing works.”

Deceptive and unfair marketing to promote high-calorie low-nutrient foods and beverages affect parent-consumer food purchasing decisions and induce demand among children for products that contribute to obesity and overweight. Such marketing campaigns can run afoul of an array of legal authorities that provide consumer protection from such practices.

PHAI conducted extensive 50-state research examining the provisions of state consumer protection laws of the United States that prohibit unfair, deceptive or unconscionable sales and marketing campaigns. Depending on the state, these consumer protection laws may be used by stakeholders in child health, including parents, as well as state attorneys general to stop unfair or deceptive marketing and advertising of unhealthy food and beverage products linked to overweight and obesity in children and adolescents.

The research focuses on the legal limits of: (1) direct marketing to children and teens in an effort to get them to use their own spending money to purchase food products for themselves; and (2) “pester power” marketing that targets children in an effort to get them to persuade their parents into buying products for them. To make it easy to find and compare state consumer protection laws, we have created an  interactive map linking to consumer protection law profiles of every state and the District of Columbia.

Key findings of our state consumer protection research also are summarized in a report and a legal issue brief:

A clear understanding of consumer protection rights and the sources of their legal authority will provide guidance for policymakers and advocates for children’s health who seek to curb these practices without the need for new legislation and regulatory measures.

Consumer Protection Map

Click to vist our interactve consumer protection map

This research was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research Program (#66968).




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