The Center for Media and Democracy in the US has documented some sickening relationships between the industries that cause and treat diseases:

• In 2006, the American Heart Association teamed up with a pharmacy chain, Rite Aid Drug Stores, to promote a “Go Red for Women” campaign to increase awareness of heart disease in women – even though Rite Aid sells cigarettes, a leading cause of heart disease.

Rite Aid is apparently notorious among public health advocates for having launched its own brand of cigarettes, for helping the tobacco industry fight anti-tobacco legislation, and for fighting a bill to reduce young people’s access to cigarettes.

The alliance with the AHA enabled Rite Aid the ability to brag publicly that it was “taking a stand against heart disease in women” while simultaneously displaying “healthy heart” posters alongside cigarette displays in its stores. Rite Aid could not plead ignorance – it previously had Brown & Williamson sign an indemnification contract holding Rite Aid harmless against legal action taken for damages, illness, or personal injury arising from selling cigarettes, and promising to pay for Rite Aid’s defence in court if they should be sued for selling cigarettes.

• Eugene Trani, the President of Virginia Commonwealth University, which operates a medical centre, school of public health and medical school, was found to be accepting a $40,000 annual retainer, plus fees totaling $3,500 and stock options, for serving on the board of the Universal Corporation, a leading global supplier of tobacco leaf.

• Another prominent public health figure has also been found to be profiting from both causing and treating tobacco-related diseases. Dr Michael A. Friedman, the Chief Executive Officer of the prestigious City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California serves on the Board of Directors of the Rite Aid Corporation.

Of course Australia’s far from squeaky clean when it comes to these sorts of sickening relationships – many prominent figures have climbed into bed with the tobacco industry over the years. And the cosy deal between the Heart Foundation and McDonald’s has left many people feeling quite nauseous, especially when images of hearts are being used to flog heart-busting junk. It’s sickening stuff.

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