Politicians and industry leaders purposefully misled the public over the health risks associated with smoking
Smoking increases your risk of stroke, emphysema, infertility, and a whole host of cancers. But back in the day, Big Tobacco tried all it could to persuade consumers that cigarettes weren’t bad for you. It didn’t stop there. They even tried to convince the public that smoking was healthy. Just take a look at some of the dangerous, not to mention highly sexist, vintage ads from the sixties and earlier.
Tobacco companies were major lobbyists and generous donors to political campaigns. Essentially, they were able to buy favor with politicians and others in positions of power, meanwhile refuting the science behind the health risks, claiming it was uncertain. It was not until the nineties – at which point, the evidence against smoking was irrefutable – that corporations began to admit there were health risks associated with cigarette smoking.
And in 2006, after a seven-year-long lawsuit, Judge Gladys E. Kessler found the tobacco companies guilty of conspiracy, having “suppressed research…destroyed documents…manipulated the use of nicotine so as to increase and perpetuate addiction”.
But it wasn’t just the tobacco companies that were guilty of this kind of malevolent activity. The sugar industry also spent years hiding data and bribing scientists to keep inconvenient research under wraps, all the while advertising Lucky Charms and Kool-Aid on children’s TV.
In 2016, a paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed the sugar industry had funded research in the sixties underplaying the risks associated with eating the white stuff, instead pointing the finger of blame at fat. According to the article authors, sugar bigwigs have been attempting to control debate around the dangers and merits of sugar and fat consumption for the past five decades.
For example, a 2011 study made the shocking (and entirely unscientific) claim that children who eat candy weigh less than those that do not. Dig a little deeper and it turns out that the research was funded by the National Confectioner’s Association, a group that represents companies like Hershey and Skittles. Then, in 2015, it was revealed that soda giant Coca-Cola had funded studies linking weight loss to exercise to undermine the important role poor diet plays in obesity.