Category: Nanny State

Hashtag Big Public Health

Those following me on social media may have noticed the hashtag that I have started- #bigpublichealth. Some have asked what does this mean and why have I done it.

Good questions. Below is my explanation.

We are forever hearing about big tobacco, big food, big pharma, big sugar and just to round it out big banks. These terms are used derisively to imply that the size of these amorphous groups is of itself a problem and that due to size, their influence is considerable.

There is some credence to this view. The lobbying power of the pharmaceutical industry is significant, especially on the USA. Allegations have surfaced about the behaviour of the sugar industry in paying researchers. The food industry, of course wants to protect its position. The tobacco industry has negligible power these days.

However, not one of these groups has the express backing of governments. Not one of … Read the rest

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Sex, cars and e-cigarettes

It is interesting to apply current thinking to decisions taken years ago. Whilst our greater knowledge today can make previous behaviours and thinking seem odd or plain wrong, there are also instances when applying todays approach would have stopped progress.

In the 1960’s it became apparent that seatbelts reduced harm from use of motor vehicles. Whilst the vast majority of users, got from A to B safely, there were (and still are) vehicle collisions causing death or serious injury.

Wearing seatbelts was not subjected to randomised double blind placebo trials. It was not felt that use of a seatbelt required a doctor’s prescription. Use of seatbelts did not make using vehicles harm free. We did not know if there may be long term harms from use.

Yet not only was this form of harm reduction recommended, it was made compulsory.

In the 1980’s we saw the advent of HIV/AIDS. It … Read the rest

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High tobacco taxes linked to crime spike

Another convenience store worker has been attacked in what has become an increasingly common occurrence. Criminals, lured by the sky-high value of cigarettes due to the government’s Tobacco Excise, are robbing local shops to get their hands on them. It has become “tobacco first then cash” according to Jeff Rogut, chief executive of the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores. Tobacconists in Queensland have also expressed concerns for the safety of themselves and their stores, with one man’s shop being hit twice in a week by thieves targeting cigarettes. New Zealand has faced the same crisis, with aggravated robberies soaring by 87% between 2016 and 2017 and then-acting Prime Minister Winston Peters criticising high tobacco taxes in his country for much of that rise.

This hardly comes as a shock. History shows that aggressively taxing a product is a surefire way to create a black market and contribute to increased … Read the rest

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How Lauren Southern exposes a double standard

Activist reporter Lauren Southern who is currently touring Australia with popular alt-media philosopher Stefan Molyneux, was warned by police not to visit a mosque in Lakemba, a predominantly Muslim area in Sydney’s western suburbs. Her plan was to observe the “culture” in Lakemba and to interview people outside of the mosque.

But before she could get there, she was apprehended by a senior police officer, who warned her that if she continued, her actions may incite a serious breach of the peace. His first line of questioning included asking her where she planned to walk next. In a video of the exchange, the flatfoot is seen to tell her that he has “grave concerns” that she will cause an “imminent breach of the peace” if she continues on towards the mosque and asks her not to go there.

Obviously Australia is not quite the free country that we think it … Read the rest

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WTO plain packaging verdict is an assault on liberty

The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) recent decision to validate Australia’s tobacco plain packaging laws is a colossal setback for liberty. The plain packaging laws which were implemented in 2012, ban logos, stylised images, brands and coloured cigarette packaging in favour of a generic packet with brand names printed in small standardised fonts. The WTO concluded, without considering significant evidence of their ineffectiveness, that Australia’s plain packaging law contributed to improving public health by reducing the use of and exposure to tobacco products and rejected claims that alternative measures would be equally useful. As a result, they declared that the law was still consistent with global trade rules.

The decision to uphold plain packaging laws is an assault on the principles of liberty. Free market capitalism, personal liberty, the ownership of private property and the enjoyment of limited government are being curtailed as a result of the panel’s decision. Strong and … Read the rest

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Bootleggers, Baptists and baggage: who benefits from plastic bag bans?

The State of Queensland recently instituted a ban on single-use plastic bags at retail outlets. Woolworths is a first mover in removing all plastic bags from its own shops. Unsurprisingly many Queenslanders are frustrated with this move, and yet few Queenslanders are surprised that the State government has done yet another stupid thing.

But why do things like this happen in the first place? Why do widely unpopular, stupid regulations seem to get through the political process that is meant to represent the populace at large?

The first thing that must be noted is that many of these regulations impose diffuse costs (a small cost on absolutely everyone) yet have concentrated benefits (a few big winners). This means that there is less incentive for individuals who have to bear the costs to lobby against such regulations, and more incentive for those few big winners to lobby for them.

But Read the rest

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A sugar tax won’t fix the damage done by ‘public health’

A recent TV Program has again raised the issue of a sugar tax. All the usual public health suspects were of course in favour. They also bemoaned the influence of industry whilst complaining that they themselves do not get enough funding and lack clout.

It is difficult to know where to start. Public health is generously funded by government and is not particularly accountable.

Let us be crystal clear. It was not the food industry that introduced low fat dietary guidelines in the absence of any evidence in the early 1980’s. It was not big pharma or big sugar or big food. It was public health.  Whilst pretending to be small and powerless, the reality is that public health leverages the power of big government.

This has been evidenced by trials of doctors such as Garry Fettke in Tasmania and Tim Noakes in South Africa where complaints by elements in … Read the rest

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No freedom to choose

I once watched a speech on the nanny state by Brendan O’Neill who said that he didn’t like the term nanny state, for two reasons. One of them was because he thought the term much too cutesy and benign to describe the insidious authoritarian nature of attempts to control how people live their lives. The other reason was because as a child his grandmother was called ‘nanny’ as was mine. His nanny drank stout for breakfast and smoked like a chimney, likewise my own nanny loved sweet treats, didn’t partake in the kind of exercise that is recommended these days and didn’t like eating salad.  The lifestyles of our nannies were the antithesis of how the nanny state would like to see us behave.

But for those who didn’t call their grandmothers ‘nanny’ while growing up, the term points to something rather more sinister: the nanny of the nursery, the Read the rest

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Tobacco harm reduction and vaping: beyond a binary approach

In the Orwell classic Animal farm there was a binary notion that the animals lived by – “four legs good, two legs bad”. This eventually morphed into “four legs good, two legs better” as the pigs who became the lead animals began walking on two legs like the evil farmer they had replaced.

Binary thinking has a role in areas like engineering where unless a bridge or building is a certain strength it may fall down. However human biology is not quite as amenable to this approach. Notwithstanding that we are all similar, no two people (even identical twins) are exactly the same.

In seeking to treat or help people in medicine we need a variety of options. No antidepressant or antihypertensive works for everyone. Different approaches are required and we must tailor what is best to the individual. The more options we have the greater the number we can … Read the rest

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