In the 1960s, tobacco producers started adding ingredients to make cigarettes taste better + hit our brain’s pleasure centers faster. They also launched marketing schemes + funded (biased) research to convince the public that cigarettes don’t cause cancer.
This week, we'll explore how those same tactics (and sometimes, people) got us hooked on processed foods, gas stoves + the internet—despite what real life results and research show. And we'll close out with insurance price increases + updated Covid-19 testing tips.
In the 1980s, Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds acquired Kraft and General Foods. Their mission? To increase sales using the same tactics that got us hooked on cigarettes.
First, they added addictive combinations of fat, salt + sugar to Oreos, Kraft Mac & Cheese + more. These hyper-palatable foods would flood our bloodstreams + hit our brain’s bliss point so fast that we’d immediately crave more. Then, they marketed high-sugar SnackWells + refined-flour Teddy Grahams as healthy diet foods. The result? We ate more of them.
Big tobacco got out of the food game in the early aughts. But their tactics live on today.
You may have read back in January that a plethora of studies confirm that gas stove emissions increase respiratory illness rates. You probably didn’t read that the American Gas Association (AGA) has been covering up this data for decades.
In 1968, electric stove sales outpaced those of gas stoves for the first time. In response, the AGA launched a $1.3 million marketing campaign to disrupt public confidence + revive sales. They funded biased studies on the safety of emissions from gas stoves, claiming that exhaust fans vented to the outdoors adequately, reducing nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide indoors. Then, they poked holes in opposing science to make us believe that data on indoor air quality is inconclusive.
Studies funded by the AGA didn’t disclose their funding source. So many of their skewed findings on the long-term health effects of gas stoves made it into scientific journals + EPA reports. Gas stoves remained on the market + in our kitchens.
How’d the AGA pull off the massive bait-and-switch? They hired the same PR firms + scientists who’d upheld the tobacco industry. Today, gas companies are still paying toxicologists to refute new studies + suing states attempting to ban future gas stove sales.
Learn more at NPR.
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New antitrust actions by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) aren't accusing Google and Amazon of Big Tobacco-like addiction schemes. But they are challenging the tactics that shape our purchasing power.
One current suit alleges that Amazon tracked when competitor prices matched Amazon's so that they could raise their prices, encouraging competitors to do the same in response. (Amazon can do this because we buy so much from them.) Another claims that Google’s Search and Ad teams partnered to boost searches that trigger ads + sales. (Google denies this.)
How discreetly manipulated is our online time? Read more at The Atlantic.
US pharmacy workers strike over ‘dangerous’ workloads (Guardian). After local strikes in September and October, pharmacists + support staff at CVS + Walgreens nationwide may strike from Oct 30 to Nov 1. They’re asking for more staff, stating they’ve not had enough to safely fill prescriptions, speak with doctors + insurance companies, manage drive-thru orders and give vaccinations—despite CVS hitting $4.1 billion profit in 2022.
Think you have Covid? Here’s the best way to test yourself now (HuffPost). New reports show that current variants peak on day four of symptoms—so at-home tests aren’t reliable until the third to fifth day. They also produce lower viral loads that can fall below at-home test detection. So if you have symptoms but no positive result? You may still have Covid. For the most accurate results, test when you first feel symptomatic, then 48 hours later, then 48 hours later again. And if you have an infection…
For people who get health care coverage through their jobs, the cost is rising (NPR). Job-based health insurance monthly premiums rose by 7% in 2023 and will probably increase again in 2024—some up to 25% more. Inflation + higher wage growth encourages the rise. But some employers worry this will threaten their workers’ budget, health + loyalty.