If, as some campaigners would have us believe, obesity is more of a health risk than smoking, the data suggest that 50 years of massive investment in the public health industry have yielded very little in the way of overall risk reduction.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – USA
I do not believe that the relationship between smoking and obesity rates is simple but this graph suggests that as a society we should at least consider taking a more holistic look at health issues.
For far too long now, health policy has been dictated by a dangerous combination of single issue campaigning and statistics based “evidence”.
People are not numbers, they do not conform to the rigid norms dictated by the public health industry and many will choose to accept certain health risks in pursuit of what they consider a more enjoyable if potentially shorter life.
I have no idea how much of the rise in obesity in the USA was fuelled by ex-smokers displacing one potentially harmful activity with another. Similarly, campaigners have no idea whether trying to reduce young people’s access to tobacco and alcohol might lead to increased uptake of other substances that are potentially more acutely threatening to their health.
One thing that we do know, or should if we bothered to learn the lessons of history is that many public health interventions have had unintended negative consequences and the more illiberal and draconian the intervention then the greater the risk and impact of such consequences.
Chris Snowdon deals with this subject in some depth in his book The Art of Suppression. It is an informative well researched read for anyone interested in the reality behind the rhetoric. Until I read it, amongst other things I was unaware that Heroin was originally promoted by the pharmaceutical industry as a non-addictive alternative to morphine. Snowdon covers a range of issues including the disaster of alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, the EUs illogical ban on oral tobacco and the growth in designer drugs as a consequence of Ecstasy prohibition.
He questions why prohibitionist policies remain attractive to many in the light of their historic failure and concludes that “in the end, fear is more intoxicating than hope.”
By Chris Oakley. Chris has previously posted on Liberal Vision: Smokers-State Aprroved hate and Intolerance is UK policy, Alcohol is Old News – Minimum Pricing for Digestives is the “Next Logical Step” , Soviet Style Alcohol Suppression Campaign Called for By Public Health Activists , Alcohol Taxation: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth , A Liberal Tolerant nation? and What hope is there for liberty if truth becomes the plaything of political lobbyists.