Rubber, Meet Road

It is all very well to theorize about how to stop the child obesity epidemic, and even better to look at tactics that have worked to quell smoking and even drinking. Several recent posts have done both, and this is a combthrough, picking out interesting points.

“Smoking and Overeating: The Differences” 

For example, when it comes to attracting customers, Big Food has an enormous advantage over tobacco, alcohol, and even hard drugs. People are born with an innate love of food, especially if it is sweet. Babies don’t respond to advertising or propaganda, they react to the direct experience of being fed and wanting more.

Conversely, alcohol and tobacco are often considered loathsome by children. Training kids to like something takes time, patience, and financial investment. It takes dedication. These extra burdens are placed upon alcohol and tobacco companies, while the food business skates. Or, at least, this is how certain Machiavellian captains of industry perceive the situation.

The same post mentioned some of the thinking behind trying interventions in different circumstances, because lining up exact parallels does not come easy. Analogies are made, and then contested and dissected by colleagues and rivals.

“Smoking and Overeating — More Differences”

The takeaway from this post is an appreciation for the variations in how society and the culture are affected by the common addictions or dependencies, and how the people decide to deal with the manifestations. Dr. Pretlow has said,

It’s not an all-or-none phenomenon, and that makes it more complicated, because people say, “Well gee, how can you say I’m addicted to food, I have to eat.” But that’s the point, it’s not every food. We’ve unfortunately engineered out food to basically rewire our brains, which is the problem we’re going to have to deal with culturally.

Confusion surrounds the public will to act politically. Like tobacco, recognized obesogens are simultaneously both subsidized and penalized by schizophrenic federal policies. Dr. Pretlow has said,

Federal corn subsidies, which lower the price of high-fructose corn syrup, should be ceased. High-fructose corn syrup is used to sweeten a multitude of food products, rendering them more pleasurable, comforting, and addictive.

As others have also suggested, anything that acts like a drug might reasonably be treated like a drug, at least when children are at risk. But how, and by whom, and on what authority?

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 limited the powers of the Food and Drug Administration in several ways. We would also expect similar objections and limitations if food were the suspect.

How would these parameters translate to obesity prevention? According to the FDA,

The Tobacco Control Act does not:
Require prescriptions to purchase tobacco products.
Require the reduction of nicotine yields to zero.
Ban face-to-face sales in a particular category of retail outlets.
Ban certain classes of tobacco products.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act — An Overview,”
Photo credit: Darryl W. Moran Photography on Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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