By Anna Cook
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And where there’s tobacco, there’s now junk food…
Many of us know that familiar commanding urge, guiding our thoughts towards anything high in fat, sugar, salt or calories. The kind of insatiable pining that differs greatly from normal hunger, and it will not yield, no matter how full you are. This insisting appetite can only be (temporarily) satisfied by Oreos, Capri Suns, Macaroni & Cheese, Nutter Butters, Chips Ahoy or anything on the Taco Bell menu. These foods have an incidental addictive quality comparative to cigarettes, but just how similar are addictive foods to addictive cigarettes?
Phillip Morris and Kraft Foods, the Same?
To start, not only are both the major US tobacco and junk food companies fundamentally the same entity, but they also utilize the same consumer-addiction fostering tactics. Phillip Morris Companies Inc. America’s leading cigarette manufacturer bought Kraft Foods Inc. in 1988. A purchase I believe to be a direct response to the “Tar Wars” and the passing of the Comprehensive Smoking Education Act of the 1980s. For the first time in American history, tobacco companies were facing harsh legislation and falling sales.
Food: The new Addiction
Phillip Morris Companies Inc. began to look for the next legal addiction they could get people hooked on and profit from. Reviewing documents from these companies correspondence revealed, “Kraft and Philip Morris discussed investing jointly in brain scans to study how the brain processes tastes and smells…and interest in brain science, including how the brain is rewarded by sweet and fatty foods” (1). This research is adamantly denied by the companies because it would imply their awareness of junk food’s addictive properties. In fact, many neuroscience studies indicated foods rich in fat, sugar and calories almost identically stimulate the brain the way cocaine does, causing addictive behavior. Documents released in tobacco liability suits show “a 1998 memo suggested that Kraft, Philip Morris and Miller Brewing, which were corporate siblings at the time, collaborate on foods and drinks ‘engineered to influence’ a customer's mood or sense of fullness” (1).
Why does this Research Matter?
These studies imply that Phillip Morris realized cigarette sales were headed for a devastating turn, invested in making junk food the next multibillion dollar industry and recognized the addictive properties of both tobacco and junk food before their consumers could.
What’s the Point?
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good salty, crunchy and oily snack just like the next blog writer, but it never occurred to me this behavior might be addictive. That through numerous advertisements, clever product display, and even scent engineering, my behavior and appetite has been exploited. That willingly, I have been trading in my money and well-being for someone else’s eager profit.
I ask that you contemplate the ethical implications of your next junk food purchase, as many others have begun to do. In fact, and perhaps in response to this awareness, “On January 27, 2003, Philip Morris Companies Inc. changed its name to Altria Group, Inc. Even under this new name, Altria continues to own 100% of Philip Morris USA. Some view this name change as an effort by Altria to deemphasize its historical association with tobacco products” (2).
We are certainly making progress towards transparency and food ethics…just be aware of how you’re being manipulated, before you drink the Kool-Aid.
WELCOME, UMICH SCIENTISTAS!
SORT BY TAG
The Network for Pre-Professional Women in Science and Engineering
The Scientista Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) -- Donate!