Originally Posted by WereBear
This is unavoidable. Much like we could dispense with the police and courts... if we still lived in small groups where the penalty for being an outright free-riding dipwick was exile.
But we don't.
Smoking is an example of how it was done right in America. (Which has a huge and deserved reputation for "doin' it rong" no question) but a combo of taxation, restrictions on the ability to impose one's dangerous habit on others, and public education dropped the usage of this highly addictive substance in a way I can't see happening any other way.
I'm reminded of how I was standing in line at a deli, and some FREEDUMB jerk was spouting off, "Look at the sign that you have to be 18 to operate a slicer, stupid roooooles" kind of thing.
I quietly pointed out that every regulation is written in blood. He shut up.
I seem to remember that, pre-internet, it took thirty years to get new medical discoveries into common practice in patients. From lags in education to companies making money to outright medical fraud by career-minded doctors and scientists. The entire history of breast cancer is littered with wrong assumptions that took much too long to be recognized.
Now, things are better: we are all proof of that. But public access to information only works for people who are willing to make their own assumptions about who is an authority.
In addition, we are people moved by data. That's not common, either. Back in the day, "everyone knew" cigarettes would kill you. But few did anything about it until immediate consequences started happening, like higher prices, enforced smoking sections, and public scorn.
Laws and regulations are inevitable. All we can do is try and make them good ones. And strive to make that bulldozer of a fake, Dr. Ancel Keys, something that can't happen again.
Respectfully, I disagree with certain points. This is a complex topic where when discussed in this forum, we'll have to work to deftly avoid politics. This is a complex topic with economic ramifications and the influence of demand elasticity as well. I don't want to go there.
In regards to tobacco tax. Growing up in the 50s and 60s, I remember this well. The short version is that when tobacco in the form of cigarettes was confirmed to cause cancer, that's when people, with this renewed awareness, started to stop smoking. This was a product that was earlier claimed to be recommended by doctors for health issues. The taxes came after, but it was the prospect of lung diseases such as emphysema and cancer that got peoples' attention. It was big news when research by the medical community confirmed this, and people responded. Yes, many felt the product was unhealthy before this confirmation. People were addicted and it would take the prospect of an early death to force action.
The dynamics of taxes are nuanced. Take alcohol for example. It is heavily taxed; yet, it is consumed and very popular today, a big business despite its health risks. Drink responsibly is the mantra, and many do. The demand elasticity for tobacco and alcohol, however, for those dependent on the substances indicates that these folks are very price insensitive. They'll pay the price to get what they want. Taxes are ineffective for the very people who are being targeted to discourage consumption.
Fast forward to taxes levied on food. How do we know what to tax? Who truly knows which foods are healthy? Should meat be taxed? Based on contentions by the WHO and many nutrition "experts," meat is a cancer risk. This information has been picked up by the media and repeated incessantly over the past several years. There are many who have an agenda to eliminate meat consumption, and it has nothing to do with human health.
What about fat? Should fat be taxed? There are some who feel saturated fat is very unhealthy and consumption should be discouraged. Who is right based on what information?
Then we come to the food subsidies very active in the U.S. How much is the cost of sugar production subsidized? What about wheat? Corn? What about the production of seed oils manufactured into soy, canola, corn, and other vegetable oils? We have an agricultural model that applies subsidies that distort the prices paid by consumers. Unhealthy, processed food is inexpensive, and it makes sense that it's consumed by many who like paying little and opening a wrapper for preparation.
So, while I am all for teaching people how to eat, I am against forcing people to eat by economic punishment. Today, we have neither the confirmed studies that clearly identify which foods are healthy nor the means to establish a food model that supports raising and growing healthy foods affordable by all. If the "knee jerk" reaction of some in politics is to simply discourage food types by making them too expensive continues, I'm fearful of where this will bring us over the next few years.
For me personally, I eat meat as a primary part of my food choices made to live a healthy life. I don't often buy grass fed meat, as it's usually too expensive and recent information ("Sacred Cow") has confirmed that there is little difference nutritionally between meat and grass-fed meat. However, once the food tax door has opened, I can see this action extending to a tax on meat, as the "unhealthy meat" drumbeat is increasing. Be careful, as you may get what you really didn't want as this action gets extended to things you feel are a core of your healthy lifestyle. One only needs to be reminded of the Food Pyramid as the epitome of unintended consequences. We are still paying that steep price today.