Personal responsibility rhetoric in tobacco- and obesity-related litigation, legislation and news coverage
With support from the National Cancer Institute, the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern Law School is collaborating with BMSG to conduct a sweeping review of arguments over who is responsible for causing, and remedying, two of the most serious public health crises in recent history: tobacco and obesity.
Content analysis of responsibility rhetoric in news coverage of tobacco and obesity
Whether a public health issue is understood as a matter of personal or social responsibility affects which policies, if any, are deemed appropriate responses to the issue. For example, insisting that smoking is solely a matter of personal responsibility has been a key tobacco industry strategy to avoid admitting responsibility for tobacco-related diseases, and to delay, dilute, and block public health policies that attempt to ameliorate the tobacco epidemic.
Many commentators now argue that the food and beverage industries are following the tobacco playbook as public attention has focused on obesity. To rigorously compare these issues, BMSG and PHAI are examining responsibility arguments made in litigation, legislation, and in news coverage during major tobacco and obesity events of the past 50 years.
This study will offer in-depth analyses on the similarities and differences between how arguments are being made to the public and policy makers about who is responsible for causing, and doing something about, problems related to tobacco and obesity.