public health

It's not morality; it's a response to a public-health emergency

Barnaby Joyce Australian Nationals leader, defending the interests of the sugar industry, instead of public health.Australian political leader Barnaby Joyce (above) came across my screen today, and I couldn’t let him go.

An institute study argues that a national anti-obesity effort should be funded by a tax on sugary beverages, and Joyce decried it as “another moralistic tax.” [Link includes video of interview.]

Joyce calls the idea “bonkers mad” because it would create “massive problems” for the sugar industry. He says the Australian Tax Office isn’t going to make people lose weight, going for a run and cutting portion sizes will. You may be saying, “Yeah, so what? This is how conservatives react to this proposed public-health response to an evident public-health problem.” I would respond that you’re correct.

The reason for writing is to poke at this idea of a “moralistic tax.” There’s nothing moral about it. The ubiquity of refined sugar, most notoriously in sugary beverages, threatens public health. Substantial societal costs result from this threat, and it is the job of government to meet public-health threats.

To say that we should leave public-health threats to personal responsibility — now that's “bonkers mad.”

How governments are trying to fight obesity

Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

I subscribe to the news service operated by the International Association for the Study of Obesity, and I think you should, too. But the purpose of this post is not to pimp but to promote a couple of related stories on this week's report.

The first is by that highlights what four states are doing to address obesity among their residents. The four include Colorado (the least obese state) and Mississippi (the most); a prevailing strategy is to target youngsters.

Tax would help, but could it ever pass?

I’m reminded of the “lock box,” which was a largely unsuccessful political gambit promoted by Al Gore during his 2000 presidential run as a way to make Social Security tax increases more palatable. The idea was that we would ensure that taxes collected for this purpose would not be redirected, making it just one more tax increase.

In conflict, pick the public good

The burgeoning fight around sugar toxicity has two sides: public-health advocates and the private industry.

For the former, the clients are you and me. Not only do individuals suffer from the flood of processed-sugar injected into every corner of the American diet, but there are significant and mounting collective costs as well: shared health costs, lost worker productivity, even national security. Every American, of every political and social persuasion, is affected by these things.

The ever-growing mountain

My voracious reading friend, Ron, points toward this morning's squib from Jane Brody of the Times on the public health consequences of the continued rise of obesity in America: By 2020, demographers say, three out of four Americans will be obese or overweight, ands that by 2030, there will be 65 million more in those categories than there were last year.

Though certainly, the current proportion of two out of three is horrendous enough, she says:

What's important

I know that blog posts should be short, but I so often struggle to combine brevity with complete, rounded thoughts. I also indulge in little preludes, such as the one you just read. Anyway, here's an attempt at shorter:

One absolute invoked by those who speak of the "food police" is the primacy of individual and corporate rights. End of discussion. I value my rights, too, but they don't prevent me from seeing all the harm that unfettered junk food marketing to kids, and to the rest of us, is doing.

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