Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Afternoon roundup

  • Stephen Franks on preemptive habitat destruction in New Zealand: be careful about planting native trees!

  • Esquire on the merits of drug legalization
    One cop straight out of The Wire crunches the numbers with's political columnist to discover that America's prohibition of narcotics may be costing more lives than Mexico's — and nearly enough dollars for universal health care. So why not repeal our drug laws? Because cops are making money off them, too.

  • There's only so much altruism to go round, so careful how you spend it!
    Consumer choices not only reflect price and quality preferences but also social and moral values as witnessed in the remarkable growth of the global market for organic and environmentally friendly products. Building on recent research on behavioral priming and moral regulation, we find that mere exposure to green products and the purchase of them lead to markedly different behavioral consequences. In line with the halo associated with green consumerism, people act more altruistically after mere exposure to green than conventional products. However, people act less altruistically and are more likely to cheat and steal after purchasing green products as opposed to conventional products. Together, the studies show that consumption is more tightly connected to our social and ethical behaviors in directions and domains other than previously thought.

  • "Fat taxes" on soft drinks: might folks substitute away to other high-calorie drinks? Turns out, yes!
    Childhood and adolescent obesity is associated with serious lifetime health consequences and has seen a recent rapid increase in prevalence. Soft drink consumption has also expanded rapidly, so much so that soft drinks are currently the largest single contributors to energy intake. In this paper, we investigate the potential for soft drink taxes to combat rising levels of adolescent obesity through a reduction in consumption. Our results, based on state soft drink sales and excise tax information between 1988 and 2006 and the National Health Examination and Nutrition Survey, suggest that soft drink taxation, as currently practiced in the United States, leads to a moderate reduction in soft drink consumption by children and adolescents. However, we show that this reduction in soda consumption is completely offset by increases in consumption of other high calorie drinks.
    I've only given the full paper a cursory glance as yet, but it's well above expectations for a public health piece.

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