Wednesday, July 3, 2013

WHO Director: Big business bad for public health

Later today, the Washington State Liquor Control Board will release draft rules for a commercial marijuana marketplace in our state.  As we consider what such a for-profit system should look like, it behooves us to reflect on what has happened with other legal consumables, including food, soda, and alcohol, and their affect on public health. 

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan recently stated that noncommunicable diseases have overtaken infectious diseases as the leading cause of death worldwide.  She pointed to Big Business as one of the most serious challenges to overcoming these problems: “It is not just Big Tobacco anymore. Public health must also contend with Big Food, Big Soda, and Big Alcohol. All of these industries fear regulation, and protect themselves by using the same tactics.”  In particular, she declared Big Alcohol one of the most serious challenges to public health in an address to the 2013 Global Conference on Health Promotion. Chan noted corporate use of front groups, lobbyists, promises of self-regulation, lawsuits, and industry-funded research that “confuses the evidence and keeps the public in doubt," along with the use of gifts, grants, and contributions that falsely cast industry as respectable corporate citizens.   

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