The NZ Initiative has released a report called “The Health of the State”. Main points are:
- Lifestyle regulations assume people do not always act in their best interests and must be protected from themselves.
- Some public health policies (current and potential) lack strong evidence.
- The report provides an economic toolkit to test the reliability of these studies.
- The report uses three policy case studies: food taxes; e-cigarettes; and alcohol marketing.
- The report concludes that some regulations are not based on sound evidence, and may not even improve health outcomes.
- In these cases, encroachments on freedom are even more unjustified.
Some extracts from their case studies:
Food Taxes – The report finds that studies fail to prove that taxes will achieve their stated policy intention: reducing obesity. Many studies focus on proxies, like whether a tax will reduce consumption or expenditure of that good. But they do not consider whether people substitute to cheaper products or other unhealthy food.
This is a key point I have often made. Food is very different to tobacco. Almost every substitute to tobacco is far far healthier for you. This is not the case for food and drink.
Despite aggressive policies by government to get New Zealand ‘smokefree by 2025’, the smoking rate is now only decreasing marginally. This suggests that those who continue to smoke either do not want to quit, or lack access to effective cessation tools. Meanwhile, e-cigarettes are a much safer alternative to conventional cigarettes, with the potential to reduce the overall harm of smoking. Yet these products currently face greater regulatory burdens than cigarettes and tobacco products that have proven risk.
It’s bizarre that it is legal to buy and sell tobacco in New Zealand, but illegal to sell e-cigarettes!