CVS aisle, CVS/Pharmacy, Bethesda, MD
Photo by Glenn G. Lammi
Well, that didn’t take long.
Just hours after CVS announced last Wednesday that it would halt sales of tobacco, public health activists and their media allies seized the opportunity to advance a notion championed by such anti-”Big Food” luminaries as The New York Times’ Mark Bittman and the Dean of Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Health, Kelly Brownell: food is the next tobacco.
For instance, the Texas Medical Association sent out the following tweet:
The commentary referenced in the tweet stated baldly, “Wander the aisles of CVS and see how their nutritional offerings fit within the framework of an organization pitching health.”
Next, this from Slate business and economics correspondent Matthew Yglesias:
But the cigarettes issue seems to me to mostly raise the question of how far CVS can really go down this road. After all, I was in CVS just yesterday to buy myself some Diet Coke. The Diet Coke sits next to the sugary sodas. And they’re across the aisle from the potato chips. Up front where you cash out there are lots of M&M’s and Snickers bars.
A Saturday op-ed in The Boston Globe called on CVS to put soda, energy drinks, and other “sugary beverages” behind the counter. In support of its absurd viewpoint, the piece quoted health researcher Deborah Cohen from the (normally cerebral) think tank RAND Corporation, who proclaimed, “The food industry is just shoving food in to us.” Nice imagery.
Speaking of imagery, the food=tobacco messaging wouldn’t be complete without a political cartoon. One by nationally syndicated cartoonist Jimmy Margulies appeared Saturday on the Washington Post op-ed page.
Food companies obviously chafe at the comparison of these two highly dissimilar product categories, as should any person who doesn’t have an axe to grind. But now that opportunities for paternalistic power and money through tobacco control are waning, anti-Big Food activists and their erstwhile allies in the plaintiffs’ bar see food as a logical and vulnerable next target. And they have at the ready an effective strategic activism plan, battle-tested from the “tobacco wars.” Continue reading