In an age of rising prevalence of non-communicable diseases, transnational companies of the tobacco, alcohol, and food industries wash their risk-creating commercial activities and unhealthy products and incidentally mislead consumers. This paper examines industries' quest for legitimacy through elaborate communication strategies. It conceptualizes the practice of healthwashing as a new form of a commercial determinant of health, revealing the inherent tension between commercial and public health objectives. Healthwashing consists of deceptive, multi-level communication strategies, including labeling and advertising, that trick consumers into believing they support companies whose practices align with their values. The paper is the first to present an original definition of healthwashing, establishing three different levels. Healthwashing occurs when health is used as a selling argument by implying benefits or unharmful effects of a product when the reality is different, when health is instrumentalized to a corporation's advantage, or when consumers are influenced to adopt a lifestyle with unhealthy products. Healthwashing aims to maintain a brand image or sales and divert consumers' attention from the company's controversial products or poor practices. Finally, the paper critically examines the challenges of tackling corporations' healthwashing practices through existing legal tools to protect public health. Corporations design these tools mainly to steer consumer behavior through sin taxes, advertisement restrictions, or labeling requirements for unhealthy products. Through a case study of consumer protection laws, the paper reflects on the current mismatch between the traditional understanding of corporations' behavior and a much messier reality in which corporations gloss over or outshine their activities and products to adhere to the expectations of a socially responsible corporation. The paper concludes by highlighting the potential of ex ante regulatory standard-setting and ex post litigation to deploy a chilling effect and denormalize industries' healthwashing practices.

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