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alcohol

Christopher Snowdon on Britain’s hypertrophy of public health [Spiked Online]:

…["Public health"] once meant vaccinations, sanitation and education. It was ‘public’ only in the sense that it protected people from contagious diseases carried by others. Today, it means protecting people from themselves. The word ‘epidemic’ has also been divorced from its meaning – an outbreak of infectious disease – and is instead used to describe endemic behaviour such as drinking, or non-contagious diseases such as cancer, or physical conditions such as obesity which are neither diseases nor activities. This switch from literal meanings to poetic metaphors helps to maintain the conceit that governments have the same rights and responsibility to police the habits of its citizens as they do to ensure that drinking water is uncontaminated. …

Once again, all it took was a change in terminology. A ‘binge-drinker’ had traditionally been someone who went on a session lasting several days. Now it means anyone who consumes more than three drinks in an evening. … Today, if you are gripped by an urge to eradicate some bad habit or other, you no longer have to make a nuisance of yourself knocking door-to-door or waving a placard in some dismal town square. You can instead find yourself a job in the vast network of publicly funded health groups and transform yourself from crank to ‘advocate’. … Although ‘public health’ is still popularly viewed as a wing of the medical profession, its enormous funding and prestige has attracted countless individuals whose lack of medical qualifications is compensated by their thirst for social change.

“Sin” taxes? “Fines for living in a way that displeases a purse-lipped elite.” For persons who are going to live well into old age in any event, the question is not so much “preventing” one eventual cause of death as swapping one for another, perhaps more troublesome cause. And always, always the moralizing:

It can scarcely be coincidence that the main targets of the public-health movement are the same vices of sloth, gluttony, smoking and drinking that have preoccupied moralists, evangelists and puritans since time immemorial. HL Mencken long ago described public health as ‘the corruption of medicine by morality’.

Whole thing here.

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  • More details on my panel discussions on food issues next week at the Heritage Foundation [Monday, Sept. 23] and at Vermont Law School [Friday, Sept. 27];
  • “A Ban on Some Italian Cured Meat Is Ending” [Glenn Collins, N.Y. Times] “Market Forces Lead to Better Treatment for Farm Animals” [Steve Chapman]
  • “Tempering temperance: Puritan attitudes on alcohol still linger decades after Prohibition” [National Post]
  • Dozens of class-action suits: “Bay Area courts center of legal battle against food industry” [Mercury-News]
  • “Plain and/or Terrifying Packaging Considered for Junk Food in New Zealand (and Australia)” [Katherine Mangu-Ward]
  • If the dangers of rice aren’t enough to alarm even today’s Margaret Hamburg-headed FDA, they’re probably not very serious [ACSH]
  • North Carolina: home visits to make sure Medicaid recipient kids are eating their veggies? [Rick Henderson video]

After pleading guilty to driving under the influence, two New Jersey men “subsequently brought a product liability action against the company that made the breath-testing device used to establish their BACs as being in excess of .08%.” Asking for class action status on behalf of all New Jersey drivers convicted after blowing into the device, the “plaintiffs claimed that ‘the Alcotest 7110 contains latent design defects in that it is a piece of respiratory equipment that is not standardized at frequent intervals and there is no provision for calibration of its pulmonary reporting apparatus.’” A court ruled the complaint inadequate on the pleadings, though it has given them a chance to replead. [Steve McConnell, Drug and Device Law]

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Nanny state roundup

by Walter Olson on July 12, 2013

  • “Sneaky public-health messaging appears to be on the upswing across the country” [Baylen Linnekin, NY Post; earlier here, here, etc.]
  • Scotland: “Parents warned they could face court for lighting up at home in front of kids” [The Sun] And Sweden: “Law professor calls for ban on parents drinking” (in presence of kids) [The Local via @FreeRangeKids]
  • Speaking of tobacco: “Former German Chancellor Stays One Step Ahead of European Nannies, Hoards Cigarettes” [Matthew Feeney on Helmut Schmidt]
  • Speaking of alcohol: ObamaCare slush fund bankrolling anti-booze advocacy in Pennsylvania [Mark Hemingway, earlier]
  • To fix the nation’s weight problem, socially discourage processed foods. Right? Wrong [David Freedman, Atlantic]
  • Mark Steyn on federal regulation requiring emergency bunny plan for magicians [NRO, more, earlier]
  • Run for your life! It’s a falling toilet seat! [Free-Range Kids]

Food roundup

by Walter Olson on June 19, 2013

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“Plans to ban the pint glass from pubs throughout the Highlands of Scotland have sparked outrage. The traditional vessel is already outlawed in nightclubs in the Highlands, which are forced to serve all drinks – including champagne, cocktails and the finest malt whiskies – in plastic containers after 9pm because of police fears over potential injury.” The Highland Licensing Board is now proposing to extend the scheme further, against objections from pub owners as well as critics of the Nanny State generally. [Telegraph]

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May 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 20, 2013

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“Young New Yorkers would not be able to buy cigarettes until they were 21, up from the current 18, under a proposal advanced [last month] by Dr. Thomas A. Farley, the city’s health commissioner, and Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker.” [New York Times via J.D. Tuccille] Or at least would not be able to buy them legally: according to estimates from the Mackinac Institute, New York state already has the nation’s highest rate of smuggled cigarette consumption, at more than 60 percent of its total market. [Catherine Rampell, NYT; Mackinac; Tax Foundation; Christopher Snowdon, "The Wages of Sin Taxes" (CEI, PDF)]

More: As the legal drinking age has been pushed upward in recent years, the average age of first use of alcohol has fallen markedly [Tuccille]

“A police officer fired for driving drunk in an unmarked police car while off-duty has filed a $6 million lawsuit against the city of Gresham, the police chief and others, alleging his rights were violated under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit filed in Portland alleged the officer, Jason Servo, was suffering from alcoholism, a recognized disability under the act, and shouldn’t have been dismissed.” [AP] In my book The Excuse Factory I sketched some of the history of how alcoholism (at least when the subject declares a willingness to participate in rehab) came to be protected under the ADA.

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on April 29, 2013

  • Colony collapse disorder, the honeybee ailment, was expected to have a dire effect on U.S. agriculture. Market-driven adjustments have helped prevent that [Walter Thurman, PERC]
  • Adieu, Mimolette? Feds may be readying crackdown on imports of artisanal cheeses [Baylen Linnekin] “Food Safety Modernization Act Far More Costly Than Supporters Claimed” [Hans Bader, earlier here, here]
  • “There may be no hotter topic in law schools right now than food law and policy” [Harvard Law School, quoted by Baylen Linnekin] New book, haven’t seen yet: Jayson Lusk, “The Food Police: A Well-Fed Manifesto About the Politics of Your Plate” [Amazon]
  • Further thoughts on hot coffee injuries and lawsuits [Ted Frank]
  • The gain in plains is mainly due to grains: residents of mountains and high-altitude areas have less obesity [Edible Geography] Restaurant labeling: per one study, “some evidence that males ordered more calories when labels were present” [Tim Carney] NYT’s Mark Bittman endorses tax on prepared food [SmarterTimes] “Michael Poppins: When the nanny acquired a police force” [Mark Steyn, NR on Mayor Bloomberg]
  • Who’s demonizing Demon Rum these days, together with Wicked Wine and Baleful Beer? Check out an “alcohol policy” conference [Angela Logomasini, Open Market] Scottish government lobbies itself to be more prohibitionist [Christopher Snowdon]
  • Bill filed by Rep Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) would cut off taxpayer funding of food-bashing propaganda [Michelle Minton; earlier here, etc.]

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Land use regulations “seem to be the bane of their existence.” Shouldn’t they perhaps draw a wider lesson? [Prof. Bainbridge]

P.S. “Also their bane includes the estate tax and attempts in DC to repeal LIFO accounting” [@sggunase]

Enough that 33 states have so-called enacted At Rest laws, requiring that bottles spend time in an in-state warehouse before being sold to consumers. Although the laws limit competition, drive up prices to consumers, and make it harder to special-order less common labels, New York may join the list following generous donations to politicians from an in-state wholesaler. [New York Post] FTC attorney David Spiegel analyzed anti-competitive liquor laws in this 1985 article (PDF) in Cato’s Regulation magazine.

And: I’ve posted an expanded version at the Cato blog. (& Michelle Minton, CEI “Open Market,” who cites an informative column by Tom Wark, WineInterview.com, to the effect that the New York bill may be dead for now.) (Edited for accuracy 4/9: licensed New York wholesalers already own warehouses in both New York and New Jersey, and the bill would have protected the former from competition from the latter)

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If this account from DNALounge is to be believed, San Francisco police are highly eager for bar owners to install surveillance cameras to monitor everything customers do, and to commit to hand over the resulting footage to police without a warrant. Raise objections, and (according to the report) you might find the requirement being added as a condition to your permit. More: SFBay.ca.

“A repeat drunken driver convicted in a crash that killed two teenagers has sued his drinking buddy and two Santa Fe restaurants that served him alcohol.” James Ruiz, who has since been convicted and incarcerated, “was out on bond on his fifth DWI arrest” when he slammed into the car of the teens’ family. [AP/WHEC; Albuquerque Journal, with headline above; UPI]

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“[Keith Allen] Brown and four other inmates at Idaho’s Kuna facility are suing major beer companies, blaming their crimes on alcoholism and claiming that the companies are responsible because they don’t warn consumers that their products are addictive.” The laudatory Nicholas Kristof column practically writes itself, though one should note that the inmates “do not have attorneys and drafted the lawsuit themselves.” [Idaho Statesman]

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Or so at least Prohibitionists mispredicted at the time in December 1933. [Jesse Walker, Reason]

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  • Labor/employment law: the last four years, and the next [Daniel Schwartz series: first, second, interview] “Some Thoughts on the Meaning of a Second Obama Term for Labor and Employment Law” [Paul Secunda]
  • “Alcoholic Tested Without Cause Can Proceed With Bias Claim” [Mary Pat Gallagher, NJLJ]
  • “The ‘I’s have it: NLRB says don’t shred those at-will disclaimers just yet” [Jon Hyman]
  • “Knox Supreme Court Decision Strengthens Worker Rights” [Mark Mix, Bench Memos]
  • “City Councils, EEOC Grapple with Employment Protections for Ex-Convicts” [Shannon Green, Corp Counsel]
  • Leftward efforts to constitutionalize labor and employment law [Workplace Prof]
  • Should this bother privacy advocates? “NLRB looks to give workers’ private contact info to unions” [Washington Examiner]
  • Drama unfolds as backers push right-to-work law in Michigan [Shikha Dalmia]

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Safety roundup

by Walter Olson on December 5, 2012

  • Patrick Basham on proposal to license smokers [Philadelphia Inquirer/Cato, earlier] New study confirms that rather than externalizing costs to the public treasury, smokers tend to cost social insurance programs less than nonsmokers do [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
  • Public health busybodies call on UK government to set minimum price for alcoholic drinks [Telegraph] Carrie Nation never thought of this: anti-booze campaigners target its calorie count [Baylen Linnekin] New York state plans anti-alcohol campaign [NY Post]
  • “Will Litigation over Playground Injuries Create a Generation of Neurotics?” [WSJ via ABA Journal]
  • Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick reassigns his exceedingly accident-prone state highway director [Boston Globe, Ilya Somin]
  • “Magnet spheres may soon be harder to acquire than ammunition in the U.S.” as Buckyballs gives up [Anthony Fisher/Reason, earlier] And from Twitter: “Those 0.0 deaths per year were not in vain.” [@TPCarney modifying @bigtimcavanaugh]
  • “Mary Cain wants $3000 damages from the street car company for a ‘sudden jerk.’ MO1917″ [@tweetsofold]
  • “No Liquid Soap Allowed in Pre-School Bathroom: Children Might Drink It” [Free-Range Kids]

And finally, the catchy, unsettling safety promotion video that’s been everywhere the last week or two, from the Melbourne transit authority:

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