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Is Meat the New Tobacco? Regulating Food Demand in the Age of Climate Change

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Document pages: 18 pages

Abstract: Switching from a meat-heavy to a plant-based diet is one of the highest-impact individual lifestyle changes for climate mitigation and adaptation. However, conventional demand-side energy policy has focused on increasing consumption of efficient machines and fuels. Regulating food demand has key advantages. First, food consumption is biologically constrained, thus switching to more energy efficient foods avoids unintended consequences of switching to more efficient machines, like higher overall energy consumption. Second, food norms, like smoking norms, are malleable because eating, like smoking, frequently occurs in socially conspicuous environments. Insofar as place-based smoking bans and information regulation were essential in lowering the prevalence of smoking, the same strategies may be even more effective in reducing meat demand. Several policy reforms can be implemented at the federal level, from reform of food marketing policies to reforms in publicly subsidized meal programs.

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