With friends like Kate who needs enemies?!!
Wednesday, January 30, 2019 at 10:18
Simon Clark

Great to see the IEA's Kate Andrews on Sky News the other night venting unbridled anger at the Lancet's ludicrous campaign to turn us all into vegans.

What a pity, though, that 'liberal' and free market commentators like Kate (above) now reserve all their righteous indignation for attacks on alcohol, sugary drinks and 'junk' food.

Tobacco? Not so much.

In fact, you can almost hear the horror in Kate's voice when she said:

"To treat food like tobacco, to any person listening out there, is genuinely baffling."


"To compare a treat or a meal out or a hamburger to smoking a cigarette ..."

The only thing missing from the end of that sentence was a full-throated "Ugh!".

Yes, I know she was talking about the relative health risks but implicit in Kate's reaction was an abhorrence of tobacco, as though smoking a cigarette is something unfathomable to ordinary people.

I'm familiar with the tone because many vaping advocates, including some ex-smokers, adopt it when they're comparing e-cigarettes with traditional cigarettes.

I don't disagree with Kate that there is a significant difference in risk but it saddens me that she has apparently accepted every ounce of propaganda about smoking which is now seen as just about the worst thing you can do if you want to stay fit and healthy.

Health is incredibly complicated. Take my father, for example. He didn’t smoke, he drank in moderation, was never overweight and was far fitter than me for much of his life, yet needed triple heart by-pass surgery at the age of 58 and again a few years later. He subsequently had a full heart transplant.

I am almost 60. I am not a smoker but I am officially obese and last year I was told that unless I take statins every day for the rest of my life there is a strong chance I will have a stroke within the next ten years.

I don’t dispute that smokers put their health at risk - though almost all smoking-related illnesses are multifactorial and many smokers live to a ripe old age without succumbing to poor health as a direct result of their habit - but so do people like me who take little or no exercise and allow themselves to become overweight.

Genetics are a factor too which is why I don’t accept the argument that people have a ‘right’ to good health.

Meanwhile history shows that by throwing tobacco (and smokers) under the bus you simply create a template for attacks on consumers of other 'unhealthy' products – the so-called 'slippery slope' that Kate was talking about.

Instead of meekly accepting each and every argument against smoking, commentators should be challenging some of the more outrageous claims – the suggestion, for example, that 'every 15 cigarettes smoked causes a genetic mutation' or that 'passive smoking kills 600,000 a year, including 165,000 children'.

When did you last hear even the more liberal commentators criticise the punitive levels of tobacco duty that hurt consumers far more than the current tax on sugary drinks?

Throwing in the towel on smoking – even when the evidence is sometimes questionable – has led directly to what Kate was justifiably angry about when reviewing the papers on Monday night because it has emboldened public health activists to turn their attention to food and drink.

In short, it's no good complaining about the current assault on alcohol, sugary drinks and 'junk' food if you accept without question all the scaremongering about smoking (primary and ‘secondhand’) because the 'health' lobby will simply turn round and say, 'Well, we were right about smoking.'

The food and drink industry’s attempt to distance itself from tobacco - including, on occasion, refusing to share a platform with tobacco companies - is already proving to be a gross misjudgement because it has given momentum to public health zealots.

While some of us were fighting graphic health warnings, the display ban and plain packaging, what was the food and drink industry doing to protect both its long-term interests and consumers who believe in choice and personal responsibility?

Did senior executives not realise that once activists and politicians had acquired a taste for such policies, tobacco was only the start?

Apparently not. According to Tim Rycroft, chief operating officer at the Food and Drink Federation:

“Drawing a comparison between tobacco and food is deeply irresponsible. Food and drink are essential to sustain life while even the smallest dose of tobacco is harmful to health."

I’m sorry, this is nonsense. In fact I’m with Professor William Dietz, co-chair of the Obesity Commission, who said:

“Although food clearly differs from tobacco because it is a necessity to support human life, unhealthy food and beverages are not.”

He’s absolutely right, although I defend every person’s right to eat and drink whatever they damn well choose without excessive regulation or, worse, prohibition.

So, no offence Kate, but with friends like you (and the food and drink industry), who needs enemies?!!

“They want us to essentially move to vegan lifestyles in which we don’t eat meat, we don’t have Coca Cola, in which people who can’t afford it are taxed out of being able to do this, whilst they fly around on their jets in Davos!” says @KateAndrs on the Lancet's diet prescription pic.twitter.com/BPmkfFgqZW

IEA (@iealondon) January 28, 2019
Article originally appeared on Simon Clark (http://taking-liberties.squarespace.com/).
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