[Blank] is to Big Tobacco: Historical Analogies in Bloomberg’s ‘Big Gulp’ Ban

Points: The Blog of the Alcohol & Drugs History Society

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempted ban on the sale of sodas larger than 16 ounces suffered a defeat in court a few weeks ago. But criticism of the industry that has been termed “Big Sugar” or “Big Food” shows no signs of abating. Those critical names are spinoffs from a down-market brand we all remember: Big Tobacco. Public health advocates from the populist food writer Michael Pollan to the lauded obesity researcher Kelly Brownell draw a direct comparison between the tactics of today’s convenience-food conglomerates and the tobacco industry of the twentieth century. Michael Moss’s recent bestseller Salt, Sugar, Fat reads like a journalistic sequel to historian Allan Brandt’s Cigarette Century.

Moss’s book begins with a series of comparisons between cigarette manufacturers and Big Food companies like Kraft and General Mills (both, he notes, now owned by Philip Morris). Moss draws from a series of executive testimonials and…

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