The INSIDER Summary:
- History is full of hucksters who have tried to scam the American public with ineffective or dangerous health products.
- The Food and Drug Administration has documented some of the worst offenders.
- They include “Vision Dieter” glasses, tape worms for weight loss, and more.
Throughout American history, con artists have tried to prey on consumers’ health concerns by hawking shady pills, potions, and “medical” devices. At best, these products are ineffective but harmless. (For example, the “healing stickers” that Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop recently recommended.) In the worst-case scenarios, they can lead to serious injury and even death.
Thanks to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consumers have some protection against scams of this nature. The agency is responsible for ensuring the safety of prescription drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, and foods.
But plenty of hucksters have tried to skirt the FDA’s rules. In fact, historians at the agency have compiled a fascinating photo album that sheds light on some of the worst health and cosmetics scams of all time.
Keep scrolling to learn about 11 ridiculous products that captured the FDA’s attention.
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Trim Reducing-Aid Cigarettes claimed you could lose 20 pounds just by smoking.
Trim guaranteed that smoking at least three of their cigarettes a day would help people lose 20 pounds in eight weeks without making any changes to their diet. The manufacturer said that the “clinically tested and medically approved” smokes could decrease appetite by drying out the the mouth.
They also said that their product was “absolutely harmless” — an assertion that seems outright ridiculous now that we know how dangerous cigarettes really are.
Vision-Dieter glasses claimed to reduce food cravings.
The Arkansas man who “invented” this product in the 1970s claimed that they used “secret European color technology” to curb cravings and hunger pangs. Obviously, they could do no such thing, and most of the glasses were destroyed by the FDA.
A huckster sold fake cancer tonics for decades before the FDA shut him down.
The FDA estimates that Harold M. Hoxsey — a coal miner with zero medical training — was scammed customers out of $50 million dollars by hawking phony cancer treatments.
He started selling his “cures” (like the useless tonic, pictured above) in the 1920s, both in his clinics and through a mail-order business. He continued to do so until 1960, when his clinics were shut down and his products banned.
Aside from the tonics, Hoxsey also operated a clinic where he “treated” skin cancer by applying a paste made partly of arsenic and zinc. All it really did was burn off the skin.
The FDA was finally able to shutter the whole of Hoxsey’s operation in 1960.