|"Bring on the nanny state"|
Filling your face with popcorn is not a human right
Funny that, because I'm a human and I thought I had the right to fill my face with popcorn. It's my popcorn, my money and my body, and, in any case, popcorn can be a nutritious, low-fat, low-calorie food.
What are these human rights of which you speak? Is filling your face with celery a human right? Is reading a book a human right? Is going for a walk a human right? For that matter, is writing ignorant, bigoted columns for loss-making Sunday newspapers a human right? If not, according to the logic of the bilge that follows, the state should put a stop to it.
As a breed, Conservative politicians hate the nanny state. So do right-wing columnists, some of whom are still whining about the fact that they can't smoke in public places.
Any suggestion that the principles behind the smoking ban be extended to junk food prompts near-apoplexy, as though we have an inalienable right to consume as much high-fat, sugary rubbish as we wish.
At least Jonathan Waxman had the good grace to wait a few paragraphs before throwing in the 'we did it to smokers, now let's do it to them?' argument. Smith, on the other hand, dives straight in there. I'm sure you can guess where this is heading.
I've never been convinced that eating popcorn is a human right...
As in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, you mean? What straw man is this? Nobody has ever said that eating popcorn, or anything else, is a right enshrined in international law, but in civilised countries we have this convention that says that people have a right to do something unless it is specifically proscribed by law. Perhaps Smith would prefer to live in a society in which everything is proscribed by law unless specifically permitted. If so, I will happily pay for a one-way flight for her to emigrate to such a nation on the condition that she promises to never return.
...and the argument that governments shouldn't intervene in the nation's eating habits looks shakier than ever. According to an analysis carried out at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and published last week, around 40 per cent of cancers could be avoided by a change in lifestyle blah, blah, blah...
This is the same study that Waxman was citing on Friday as his excuse for having the state decide what people eat and drink. Amongst other problems, this study assumes that someone who gets lung cancer, for example, would otherwise not have got any form of cancer had they not smoked. Since the biggest risk factor for cancer is age, this is quite a major flaw. I refer you to Nigel Hawkes' analysis of it over at Straight Statistics. Hawkes points out that more than 60% of the 'lifestyle-related' cancers are due to smoking—a risk factor which has hardly been under-publicised in recent years—but that for nonsmokers, "adopting a perfect diet, drinking no alcohol, eating no red or processed meat, and maintaining a body mass index of less than 25 would actually reduce total cancer incidence by 13.3 per cent. Many people might think the sacrifice scarcely worth the reward."
Indeed. Particularly since, as he also notes, the majority of cancer deaths registered in England and Wales last year involved people over the age of 75. Unless Joan Smith believes that the alternative to cancer is eternal life, what is it that she thinks people should die of?
That figure is bound to rise as more people exceed sensible weight limits, with one study published in The Lancet predicting that half the population could be obese by 2030.
That study, frankly, is bullshit in a ball gown. A glance at recent trends in obesity indicate that it is highly unlikely that half the population will be obese in 19 years time. On the contrary, the rate seems to be flattening out. Actual figures are shown on the left of the graph below. The Lancet's projection is on the right. As with the '40% of cancers' study, The Lancet's fanciful prediction was designed purely to inspire half-witted busy-bodies to write half-witted opinion pieces in which they demand authoritarian policies from half-witted politicians. Joan Smith has not disappointed.
The cost in extra health care alone would be about £2bn a year...
No it wouldn't.
Last week, cancer charities were keen not to blame individuals for habits that raise their risk...
Of course they were, you fool. The whole idea is to place the blame on the government because what these campaigners want is 'tough action' from the government. Everybody knows that the individual is responsible for what he eats, drinks and smokes, but the lobbyists are hardly like to say that, are they now? Do try to keep up.
...it's clear that many people find it hard to resist fatty food and cheap alcohol, which leaves government intervention the only serious option.
Well, let's not be so hasty. Are we sure that all the other possibilities have been exhausted? Have you, for example, considered the option of fucking off and leaving us alone?
It's worked with smoking, which used to be enjoyed by more than half the male population and has now dropped to a fifth. The success of campaigns against tobacco, from graphic health warnings on cigarette packets to high rates of tax and an advertising ban, provides an optimistic model of how self-destructive behaviour can be altered.
Ah yes, the "model". The anti-tobacco blueprint. The tobacco control template. The start of that slippery slope which we were told for years was a figment of our imagination.
How the drinkers scoffed when we told them that they were next. How the nonsmokers chuckled when they were warned that pizza would one day be equated with cigarettes.
Seems like only yesterday, does it not? These complacent souls now find themselves with no leg to stand on. How can they argue with Smith's prescription—graphic warnings, high taxes, advertising bans? Presumably she agrees with plain packaging, retail display bans and denormalisation as well.
And why not? The provide an "optimistic model".
Where do we draw the line between smoking and drinking? Where do we draw the line between drinking alcohol and drinking Pepsi? We cannot. Once we have accepted the healthist world view, no principled and logically consistent objection can be made against photos of rotten teeth on soft drinks. Those who welcomed the 85% sales tax on cigarettes are in no position to oppose an 85% sales tax on bacon. They can only wriggle and squirm and hope the puritans tackle their pleasures last.
And so, in a sense, I welcome the likes of Joan Smith and Jonathan Waxman for finally coming clean and alerting us all about what is afoot.
Unless it wants to look criminally irresponsible, the Government should tackle weight and alcohol problems with the same ferocity. Bring on the nanny state, and ignore the predictable protests.
The lines are drawn. We tried to warn you, we really did. Now whose side are you on?