Lethal But Legal: Corporations, Consumption, and Protecting Public Health

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Overview

Decisions made by the food, tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceutical, gun, and automobile industries have a greater impact on today's health than the decisions of scientists and policymakers. As the collective influence of corporations has grown, governments around the world have stepped back from their responsibility to protect public health by privatizing key services, weakening regulations, and cutting funding for consumer and environmental protection. Today's corporations are increasingly free to make decisions that ...

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Lethal But Legal: Corporations, Consumption, and Protecting Public Health

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Overview

Decisions made by the food, tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceutical, gun, and automobile industries have a greater impact on today's health than the decisions of scientists and policymakers. As the collective influence of corporations has grown, governments around the world have stepped back from their responsibility to protect public health by privatizing key services, weakening regulations, and cutting funding for consumer and environmental protection. Today's corporations are increasingly free to make decisions that benefit their bottom line at the expense of public health.

Lethal but Legal examines how corporations have impacted — and plagued — public health over the last century, first in industrialized countries and now in developing regions. It is both a current history of corporations' antagonism towards health and an analysis of the emerging movements that are challenging these industries' dangerous practices. The reforms outlined here aim to strike a healthier balance between large companies' right to make a profit and governments' responsibility to protect their populations.

While other books have addressed parts of this story, Lethal but Legal is the first to connect the dots between unhealthy products, business-dominated politics, and the growing burdens of disease and health care costs. By identifying the common causes of all these problems, then situating them in the context of other health challenges that societies have overcome in the past, this book provides readers with the insights they need to take practical and effective action to restore consumers' right to health.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/11/2013
Public health specialist Freudenberg points a critical finger at the “Corporate Consumption Complex” and the major corporations doing business in six consumer product industries: food, alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, guns, and automobiles. He argues that carefully designed products, effective lobbying, and aggressive advertising have created rising rates of premature death, increases in instances of heart disease and diabetes, and poorer health worldwide. Reinforced by deep-seated cultural ideologies that value hyper-consumption, low regulation, and blaming individual lifestyle choices for widespread health issues, these corporations produce high-profit “fun for you” products, pursue poorly regulated international markets, and maintain a “system in which those at the very top... run the world to benefit themselves.” The limited successes of some community activist groups in challenging these forces, such as Million Mom March, are held up as building blocks for alliances that could focus on a broader, unified agenda. Freudenberg’s earnest enthusiasm for saving the public’s health from corporate greed comes through despite the quiet dryness of his presentation, and his faith in America’s disjointed collection of public health activists’ ability to become an emerging movement that can successfully advocate for a healthy, sustainable future is well articulated, if perhaps overly hopeful. B&W halftones and illus. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"A reservoir of constructive indignation that can arouse all Americans who adhere to basic human values." —Ralph Nader

"A real eye-opener. Freudenberg lays out the labyrinth of connections between corporate misbehavior and the health of the world, then and gives a roadmap to fix it. I love this book." —Cheryl G. Healton, Director, NYU Global Institute of Public Health; former President and CEO, American Legacy Foundation

"After documenting how multinational corporations manipulate us into hyperconsumption, this book goes on to identify the strategies we can, together, use to liberate ourselves." —Richard Wilkinson, Emeritus Professor of Social Epidemiology, University of Nottingham

"Freudenberg brings clarity to our understanding of these fundamental determinants of population health in a way that no one else has." —Sandro Galea, Gelman Professor and Chair of Epidemiology, Columbia University

"A richly detailed account of how corporate power has been used to corrupt health and well-being, along with excellent advice on what readers can do about it." —Kirkus Reviews

Library Journal
02/01/2014
The good cop/bad cop nature of modern corporations has led both to incredible advances in areas such as consumer goods and medicine and also to a rise in chronic diseases and injuries worldwide. Freudenberg (public health, CUNY; Urban Health and Society) outlines the problems and suggests possible actions to correct them. He narrows his focus to six industries: alcohol, automobiles, firearms, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, and tobacco. In each case, he says, increasing interplay among the management of corporations, marketers, and government has increased their ability to frame how consumers in all countries view products that are attractive and sometimes "hyperpalatable" but ultimately cause harm to individuals and significant costs to societies. The result is what he calls the "corporate consumption complex," in which global corporations promote "hyper-consumption, a way of living directly linked to premature mortality and avoidable illness or injury." Freudenberg has gathered an impressive array of references and writes with clarity and passion. VERDICT This is a good resource for readers interested in how the current corporate culture came to be and what has resulted. Suggestions and resources are also offered for how grassroots movements might begin to take some of the power back.—Richard Maxwell, Porter Adventist Hosp. Lib., Denver
Kirkus Reviews
2013-12-22
A call to arms to fight the "corporate consumption complex," offering strategies and resources that can be enlisted in the fight. It's all about capitalism and profit, writes Freudenberg (Public Health/CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College) as he lays out the sins of the alcohol, automobile, firearms, food and beverage, pharmaceutical and tobacco industries, all of which are contributing to ill health and preventable deaths. Many of these sins are well-known--e.g., the relation between fast food and obesity or smoking and cancer. The author also reveals that a chunk of alcohol industry profits comes from underage and pathological drinking, as well as the fact that current restraints on tobacco advertising in America have simply moved the targets overseas. Freudenberg emphasizes that corporations are multinational, marketing is global, and corporate interests are aided by liberal trade agreements and U.S. patent rights. So what to do? In the final chapters, the author reviews the rise of child labor and worker safety laws as well as the Food and Drug Administration and looks at examples of current efforts to protect consumers. Chances of success improve with such strategies as making the personal political (getting patients to testify), suggesting alternatives (yes, reduce car emissions but also argue for increased mass transit), targeting specific companies, inviting partners and generalizing the issue (not just malt liquor, but other unhealthy product advertising). Ideally, Freudenberg seeks "a new ideology for health and democracy" with a unifying policy agenda. It would expand consumer rights, require firms to pay for damages they cause, establish global health standards, protect science and universities from corporate invasion, re-empower government to protect the public's health and prevent corporations from manipulating the democratic process. A richly detailed account of how corporate power has been used to corrupt health and well-being, along with excellent advice on what readers can do about it.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199937196
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 2/18/2014
  • Pages: 344
  • Sales rank: 111,754
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas Freudenberg, PhD, MPH, is Distinguished Professor of Public Health at the City University of New York School of Public Health at Hunter College and founder and director of Corporations and Health Watch (www.corporationsandhealth.org), an international network of activists and researchers that monitors the business practices of the alcohol, automobile, firearms, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and tobacco industries.

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Table of Contents

1. Manufacturing Disease: Unhealth Products Become Ubiquitous

2. The Public Health Evidence: How Corporate Practices Contribute to Global Epidemics of Chronic Disease and Injuries

3. Corporations Take Control: A New Political and Economic Order Emerges

4. The Corporate Consumption Complex

5. The Corporate Ideology of Consumption

6. The Health Impact of Corporate Managed Globalization

7. Optimism Past, Present, and Future: The Buiding Blocks for a Movement

8. Wanted: A Movement for a Healther, More Sustainable Future

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    Interesting & informative

    Very interesting information regarding certain industry and company involvement in international advertising and policies, along with issues we have in the states. Another great read to infuriate and motivate.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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