Using Regulatory Stances to See All the Commercial Determinants of Health

Original Scholarship
Commercial Determinants of Health Population Health

Policy Points:

  • The commercial determinants of health (CDoH) concept, which currently focuses on markets that harm health, should be expanded to refer to the interface between commerce and health, which can sometimes have positive public health consequences.
  • The regulatory stances framework helps us classify public health preferences for regulating specific markets related to CDoH, based on the intended effects of regulations on market size. The regulatory stances a jurisdiction can adopt can be classified as ranging from prohibitionist through contractionist, permissive, and expansionist, to universalist.
  • The regulatory stances framework increases the usefulness of the CDoH concept by expanding the conversation beyond negative determinants of health and providing a fuller view of the tools at the disposal of society to alter markets and improve health.

Context: The effects of commerce on the public health are omnipresent. The commercial determinants of health (CDoH) represent a burgeoning area of scholarly debate and activist policymaking to redress markets that adversely affect public health. The CDoH debate is a logical extension of the tobacco control movement, but, to its detriment, the CDoH conversation remains primarily focused on policies and proposals that are analogous to historical tobacco control strategies.

Methods: This paper argues that for the CDoH to develop further and broaden its appeal, it should expand to cover markets with conditional and positive impacts on health. To explain and order this conversation, a comparative framework for regulatory policy is introduced: the regulatory stances. The regulatory stances classify a regulatory policy based on the intended effect of policy on the size of a market in the future relative to the present.

Findings: Some markets that interface between commerce and health do not inherently harm health. Regulatory policy toward these markets should be different in intent than regulatory policy for markets with negative health effects.

Conclusions: By using the regulatory stances framework to encompass markets that have positive or conditional effects on health as well as those that have adverse health effects, the CDoH conversation can shift away from the exclusive focus on strategies to shrink markets with adverse health impacts to consider a wider array of policy options.

Keywords: commercial determinants of health, tobacco, comparative regulation, public policy.


Liber A.C., Using Regulatory Stances to See All the Commercial Determinants of Health. Milbank Q. May 17, 2022.