The investigators propose to examine the tobacco, fast food and sweetened beverage
industries' use of personal responsibility rhetoric in legal and regulatory forums where many
public health policies, both positive and negative, are created. As a response to legal context,
the tobacco industry invokes personal responsibility rhetoric to focus attention away from its
conduct and toward the individual in responding to the harm. When used as the basis of
legislative and regulatory oversight, in judicial proceedings, or in other forums of law and policy
formation, the concept of personal responsibility exploited rhetorically to obscure or shift
attention from larger structural determinants - including culpable actors - that adversely affect
the public's health.
The investigators will identify the judicial, regulatory, legislative operational processes and
related media coverage that have facilitated the use of personal responsibility rhetoric by the
tobacco industry and those processes that have resisted such rhetoric in favor of analyses of
structural determinants of health behaviors. The tobacco industry's personal responsibility
rhetoric may also serve as a model for other commercial interests faced with the recognition that
their products are harming the public's health. The investigators will examine rhetoric in the
judicial, regulatory, legislative forums and related media by the fast food and sweetened
beverage industries in their identified role in the obesity epidemic and compare their rhetoric
with that deployed by the tobacco industry.
Research will be oriented around nine key law and policy events, which will function as the
investigators' theoretical samples. The theory is that the use of personal responsibility rhetoric
shields from scrutiny in the judicial, regulatory and legislative forums commercially engineered
determinants of health behavior. In addition to traditional law and policy research, the
investigators rely on ethnographic content analysis to examine datasets containing internal
industry tobacco documents, legal documents generated in the relevant legal forums, news
media coverage, industry public relations documents and other documentation of conduct by the
tobacco, fast food and sweetened beverage industries. The investigators will develop an initial
coding scheme based on a preliminary literature reviews and examination of samples of text in
the identified datasets. The investigators will test the coding on samples from the identified
The study findings will be described in articles to be published in peer-reviewed publications and
actively disseminated through participation in scholarly forums.
If you are accessing this page during weekend or evening hours, the database may currently be offline for maintenance and should operational within a few hours. Otherwise, we have been notified of this error and will be addressing it immediately.
Please contact us
if this error persists.
We apologize for the inconvenience.
- The DCCPS Team.