The investigators propose to examine the tobacco, fast food and sweetened beverage industries'use of personal responsibility rhetoric in legal and regulatory forums where many public health policies, both positive and negative, are created. As a response to legal context, the tobacco industry invokes personal responsibility rhetoric to focus attention away from its conduct and toward the individual in responding to the harm. When used as the basis of legislative and regulatory oversight, in judicial proceedings, or in other forums of law and policy formation, the concept of personal responsibility exploited rhetorically to obscure or shift attention from larger structural determinants - including culpable actors - that adversely affect the public's health. The investigators will identify the judicial, regulatory, legislative operational processes and related media coverage that have facilitated the use of personal responsibility rhetoric by the tobacco industry and those processes that have resisted such rhetoric in favor of analyses of structural determinants of health behaviors. The tobacco industry's personal responsibility rhetoric may also serve as a model for other commercial interests faced with the recognition that their products are harming the public's health. The investigators will examine rhetoric in the judicial, regulatory, legislative forums and related media by the fast food and sweetened beverage industries in their identified role in the obesity epidemic and compare their rhetoric with that deployed by the tobacco industry. Research will be oriented around nine key law and policy events, which will function as the investigators'theoretical samples. The theory is that the use of personal responsibility rhetoric shields from scrutiny in the judicial, regulatory and legislative forums commercially engineered determinants of health behavior. In addition to traditional law and policy research, the investigators rely on ethnographic content analysis to examine datasets containing internal industry tobacco documents, legal documents generated in the relevant legal forums, news media coverage, industry public relations documents and other documentation of conduct by the tobacco, fast food and sweetened beverage industries. The investigators will develop an initial coding scheme based on a preliminary literature reviews and examination of samples of text in the identified datasets. The investigators will test the coding on samples from the identified datasets. The study findings will be described in articles to be published in peer-reviewed publications and actively disseminated through participation in scholarly forums.

Public Health Relevance

By understanding the tobacco industry's rhetorical use of the concept of personal responsibility in legal and regulatory forums such as courts and legislatures where much health policy is determined, and analyzing how this rhetoric appears in news, opinion and public relations media material, it will be possible to more effectively anticipate and counter such rhetoric and enact evidence-based public health interventions in legal and regulatory forums. Extending the analysis of the use of such rhetoric to the fast food and sweetened beverage industries that are implicated in the obesity epidemic and comparing these approaches to that of the tobacco industry will better prepare policy- makers for undertaking important policy interventions to reduce obesity and its escalating public health impact.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
5R01CA087571-08
Application #
8232119
Study Section
Community Influences on Health Behavior (CIHB)
Program Officer
Bloch, Michele H
Project Start
2000-09-01
Project End
2014-02-28
Budget Start
2012-03-01
Budget End
2013-02-28
Support Year
8
Fiscal Year
2012
Total Cost
$472,296
Indirect Cost
$44,831
Name
Northeastern University
Department
None
Type
Other Domestic Higher Education
DUNS #
001423631
City
Boston
State
MA
Country
United States
Zip Code
02115
Mejia, Pamela; Dorfman, Lori; Cheyne, Andrew et al. (2014) The origins of personal responsibility rhetoric in news coverage of the tobacco industry. Am J Public Health 104:1048-51
Winickoff, Jonathan P; Hartman, Lester; Chen, Minghua L et al. (2014) Retail impact of raising tobacco sales age to 21 years. Am J Public Health 104:e18-21
Cheyne, Andrew; Dorfman, Lori; Daynard, Richard A et al. (2014) The debate on regulating menthol cigarettes: closing a dangerous loophole vs freedom of choice. Am J Public Health 104:e54-61
Dorfman, Lori; Cheyne, Andrew; Gottlieb, Mark A et al. (2014) Cigarettes become a dangerous product: tobacco in the rearview mirror, 1952-1965. Am J Public Health 104:37-46
Friedman, L; Daynard, R (2007) Scottish court dismisses a historic smoker's suit. Tob Control 16:e4
Guardino, Sara D; Daynard, Richard A (2007) Tobacco industry lawyers as "disease vectors". Tob Control 16:224-8
Friedman, Lissy C (2007) Philip Morris's website and television commercials use new language to mislead the public into believing it has changed its stance on smoking and disease. Tob Control 16:e9
Alderman, Jess (2007) Ethical implications of physician involvement in lawsuits on behalf of the tobacco industry. J Law Med Ethics 35:692-8, 513
Friedman, L C (2006) Tobacco industry use of judicial seminars to influence rulings in products liability litigation. Tob Control 15:120-4
Givelber, Daniel; Strickler, Lori (2006) Junking good science: undoing Daubert v Merrill Dow through cross-examination and argument. Am J Public Health 96:33-7

Showing the most recent 10 out of 14 publications