Monday 17 December 2012

Pluralism and health

I've critiqued the public health crowd for being too willing to set health as the only value, or at least one that is accorded the presumptive right to trump any other element of someone else's more pluralistic vision of the good.

Australia recently implemented tobacco plain packaging legislation. The new packages are not particularly pleasant, with pretty prominent pictures of diseased lungs and the like. Box Wrap offers a sleeve that wraps around the uglified tobacco packs with more pleasant images. In short, it's a sticker. It's a sticker that happens to be the right size to wrap around a cigarette carton. And so:
The Australian Medical Association has urged the federal government to ban stickers being sold to wrap around cigarette packets to sidestep tobacco plain packaging laws.
A Department of Health and Ageing spokeswoman said they would be "immediately investigating this product to evaluate its status" but refused to speculate on what actions could be taken.
The AMA wants the government to ban a sticker. DoHA wants to see whether they're able to ban a sticker.

Any bets on whether they'd be trying to ban it if the exact same product were sold without the anti-nanny-state rhetoric? I mean, look at all of the similar products that exist and have not yet roused DoHA and AMA ire. Here's an Australian Ebay list of cigarette cases. Here's another set. And some more. Does the AMA and DoHA hate the sticker because it's perhaps an easier way to route around their packaging law than buying a cigarette case? Or because it's bundled with a freedom of choice message and a deliberate thumb-in-the-eye to the anti-tobacco movement?

The Australian Medical Association wants to ban a sticker. What a world.

Update: Chris Snowdon caught this one before I had. He also points to other Australian wackiness. The Director of the Centre for Research & Action in Public Health at the University of Canberra, Rachel Davey, lauds Britain's wartime and post-war food rationing as an example for reducing obesity.
Wartime food shortages and government directives forced people to adopt different eating patterns. They ate considerably less meat, eggs, and sugar than they do today.

Rationing was enforced in Britain for 14 years, and continued after the war had ended. Meat was finally derationed in June 1954. Petrol was also rationed, so people stopped buying and using cars, and public transport was limited. There was no “obesity epidemic” as food supply and travel was limited, meaning people ate less and did more physical exercise (walking).

Interestingly, during the years when rationing was enforced, the prevalence of obesity was negligible in the United Kingdom. And waste was minimised as both individuals and government agencies were busy finding new ways of reducing the waste of food resources to a minimum (sustainable consumption).

Is it conceivable that some form of food rationing and portion control may help address the dramatic rise in obesity and the sustainability of our foods supply? If we continue to over-consume foods in unsustainable ways for both our health and our planet, we may be left with no other choice.

1 comment:

  1. I understand obesity is well under control in North Korea, too.