Cigarettes and junk food have something in common

You all already know that tobacco companies were responsible for one major global health crisis, but what if we told you they were actually responsible for two of them? 

Driving the news: A new study published in the journal Addictions blames the rise of junk food in North America on brands that were once owned by tobacco companies. 

  • Tobacco companies were forced to divest from the US food industry in the 2000s, but titans of snacking Kraft-General (Kool-Aid, Jell-O) and Nabisco (Oreo, Ritz) were once owned by cigarette merchants. 

The study found that between 1988 and 2001, foods from tobacco-owned companies were as much as 80% more likely to be “hyper-palatable,” i.e. loaded with a mix of addictive additives like sodium and carbs that trick the body into eating more than it actually wants.  

  • The study concluded that these foods—created by companies that knew a thing or two about making addictive products—were ultimately "designed to maximize public consumption at great risk to public health."

Why it matters: Thanks in part to Big Tobacco, junk foods are now more readily available than fresh foods. This has directly contributed to spikes in heart disease, stroke, and obesity, an affliction that affects over 1.1 billion people and saps more than 2% from the global GDP

In Canada: Nearly two-thirds of adults are overweight or suffer from obesity, while an estimated one in ten premature deaths among those aged 20-64 are directly linked to the disease.—QH