Friday, 7 June 2013

Two unrelated stories

Item the First: The WHO seeks a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising in the Western Pacific region that includes New Zealand.*

Before Item the Second, recall anti-tobacco campaigner Jack Banzhaf's 1991 dismissal of slippery slope arguments:
"They use the 'slippery slope' argument. 'My God, if they can do this to smokers today they can do this to people who eat Haagen-Dazs ice cream or whatever.'"
Item the Second: The University of Otago's Janet Hoek wants New Zealand to implement plain packaging for soft drinks. The anti-tobacco industry used to warn that there was no slippery slope from anti-tobacco proposals to other products; tobacco just wasn't like other commodities. Hoek writes:
Tobacco is a very unambiguous product because it is uniquely harmful - some foods are closely analogous to tobacco as they offer no nutritional benefit and the research evidence suggests changes in food supply, particularly the widespread availability of inexpensive, palatable, energy dense food have contributed to, if not at least partly caused, the rising prevalence of obesity.
Hoek warns about a different kind of slippery slope: she says the food industry has been adopting tobacco-industry style tactics to delay government regulation.

* I think it's inframarginal for NZ.


  1. "Tobacco is a very unambiguous product because it is uniquely harmful - some foods are closely analogous to tobacco as they offer no nutritional benefit"

    I actually don't understand how people think this - after all value is subjective. I guess that's the thing though, their judgments are subjective and just based on inherently different values to my own.

    Why the hell would people only consume things based on nutritional benefit though - very dystopian. If this is genuinely how these researchers make choices, then we are definitely very different types of people ...

  2. H0: They work backwards from hating the people who exhibit lower-class-affiliated behaviours (smoking, drinking Tui, being fat) towards policies that let them punish the offenders while looking like they're trying to help.

  3. That strays too close to moustache-twirling villainy for me to be comfortable accepting it as an argument. I think it more likely that they're simply neglecting consumption benefits. They have their "doctor" hats on, and they're only thinking in terms of the human body as a machine.

    And people accuse us economists of having a narrow focus.

  4. Indeed - although I have seen an increasing number of moustaches around Wellington ... coincidence, or something more sinister ;)

  5. It's the null; we're meant to find ways of rejecting. Open to alternatives. They're doing more than neglecting consumption benefits, though, they're denying the possibility of them!