31 October 2007

Diet and health

Of course I am what I eat. If I eat junk then my bodily functions get junked. If I eat poisons my body gets poisoned. If I drink carcinogens I get cancer. This is not rocket science. It is, however, experienced as extremely challenging to people who, wedded to unhealthy habits, deny evidence that demonstrates their habits to be unhealthy. Under the hot African sun an ostrich may be wise to bury its head for a while in the sand. To leave its head buried indefinitely, however, leads inevitably to death. The British news media exist not even in a parallel universe, but in a universe that at times appears to be perpendicular to reality. In keeping with "Up Yours, Delors", "Gotcha" and "Freddy Starr Ate My Hamster", the British news media can be relied on to deride any suggestion that might enpale the deepest ultramarine of political, cultural, social and scientific status quos. (When Murdoch supported Blair in 1997, Murdoch already knew what most of us then did not.) "Bonkers nanny state claims Earth is round" "Boffins claim phlogiston does not exist" "Pinko bishops say Earth goes round sun" If alcohol is a mild carcinogen, then alcohol is a mild carcinogen. If eating mammals too often leads to a variety of cancers and to heart disease, then it probably makes good sense not to eat mammals very often, or even not at all. As I understand it, Canute/Knut did not believe that he would stop the tide: he was demonstrating that not even he could stop the tide. Third, the food, drink and drugs manufacturers. "Would you like to try this lead-based make-up?" "How about this mercury-based medicine?" "Smoking tobacco will improve both your health and your image."
I am happy that money raised from taxes should be spent on promoting healthy living. I do not understand why money raised from taxes is used to promote healthy living at the same time as money is spent promoting those same products. This is like permitting an arsonist to continue to spray petrol onto a fire that firefighters are trying to extinguish.
Manifesto for immediate action:
1. ban all advertising (including sponsorship) of food related to mammals
2. ban all advertising (including sponsorship) of alcohol
3. ban any retail outlet (including supermarkets) from selling alcohol for consumption off the premises, with the exception of licensed, sole-purpose premises (off-licenses), and prohibiting the sale from those licensed, sole-purpose premises of anything that is not explicitly identified in legislation as alcohol-consumption-related (specifically: confectionery, snack foods and soft drinks)
4. ban any retail outlet from selling tobacco with the exception of licensed, sole-purpose premises (tobacconists), and prohibiting the sale of anything that is not explicitly identified in legislation as smoking-related (specifically: confectionery, snack foods, soft drinks, newspapers and magazines)
5. require anyone importing alcohol into the UK, or entering the UK with alcohol (no exceptions) to be in possession of a wholesale or retail license to sell alcohol
6. require anyone importing tobacco into the UK, or entering the UK with tobacco (no exceptions) to be in possession of a wholesale or retail license to sell tobacco.

In case the above appears extreme, it is worth noting that there are places in the world where the sale of alcohol is either banned (such as in some Musim countries) or restricted in a manner similar to that described above (such as in Scandanavia and parts of Canada). There is legislation in most countries about which drugs may be retailed, and control of the way in which those drugs are advertised and retailed. There is legislation in many countries restricting the import without an appropriate license of any quantity whatsoever of a wide variety of foodstuffs (try taking a sandwich into the US through JFK).

There are many people employed in industries relating to the production and distribution of tobacco, alcohol and food derived from mammals. These people will lose their jobs. New jobs must be found for them. Part of the UK, EU and world economies are based around these products, and there will be a reduction in economic activity. New opportunities must be found and exploited. There is very much to be done in the world: spreading education; building developing economies out of their poverty; improving the natural environment; developing and exploiting energy sources that are less destructive of the natural environment; finding ways to rescue archaeology, cultures and languages that are being eclipsed by the modern world; seeking out new ways and places to live; seeking out new pharmaceutical products; improving the quality of the housing in which people live; spreading and embedding new technology; helping people to get fit and lead healthier lives.

Were western societies to progress in the simple ways described above, the move would represent further steps towards a more wholesome existence.

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