In today’s Washington Times: my take on the growing aggressiveness of “public health” officialdom in pushing scare campaigns about everyday consumption risks, including Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial new campaigns against sweetened drinks and (even more misleadingly) salty foods, as well as the FDA’s proposal to put corpse photos on cigarette packs. It begins:
The Puritans held that reminders of mortality had an edifying effect on the living, which is why they sometimes would illustrate even literature for young children with drawings of death’s-heads and skeletons. Something of the same spirit seems to animate our ever-advancing movement for mandatory public health. The Food and Drug Administration has just floated the idea of requiring cigarette packs to carry rotating pictures that would include corpses – yes, actual corpses – as well as close-ups of grotesque medical disorders that can afflict smokers.
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s superactivist Health Department has begun public ad campaigns about the health risks of everyday foods, including a controversial YouTube video portraying soda drinkers as pouring globs of shimmery yellow fat into their open mouths and – just out – an ad showing an innocent-looking can of chicken-with-rice soup as bursting with dangerous salt. Whether or not you live in New York, you’re likely to be seeing more of this sort of thing because the mayor’s crew tends to set the pace for activist public-health efforts nationwide; the Obama administration, for example, picked Bloomberg lieutenant Thomas R. Frieden to head the influential Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why should government use our own tax dollars to propagandize and hector us about the risks of salted snacks, chocolate milk or the other temptations of today’s supermarket aisle? The Bloomberg-Obama camp seems to feel that government dietary advice is superior to other sources of information we might draw on because (1) it’s more objective, independent and pure of motive and (2) it can draw on better science.