Manufacturers of sugar-laden drinks are adopting Big Tobacco's public relations strategies in response to government proposals to tax soda and sugary drinks. They are claiming their products are wholesome or harmless at worst, sowing doubt about whether their products are really related to the country's obesity problem (even when there is no longer doubt that they are), marketing heavily to children, funding front groups to oppose the taxes, and trying to take attention away from their products by focusing arguments on other topics, like individual responsibility and the totality of the diet. They are also employing spokespeople who are well-versed in tobacco industry strategies. Derek Yach, now senior vice president of global health policy at Pepsico, used to work for the World Health Organization developing the WHO's Tobacco-Free Initiative. Speaking on behalf of Pepsico, Yach applies the tobacco industry strategy of linking the originally-proposed action to a fear-inducing outcome (also known as Philip Morris' "Bigger Monster" strategy): Yach argues that "Simply pricing one product higher would lead to unknown effects on total dietary consumption. It may even lead to worse situations: people may stop spending on one food to eat more of another, so taxing high levels of sugar may lead to eating higher levels of fat."
Posted by Anne Landman on February 19, 2010