Well, if you\’re going to lie, make it a big lie

Make it a lie large enough that all anyone can do is splutter in outrage:

Food, drink, and alcohol companies are using similar strategies to the tobacco industry to undermine public health policies and should be regulated, say public health experts.

The action is really rather running the other way isn\’t it? The anti-food, drink, booze crusades are picking up all their techniques from the anti-smoking lot.

Over to Mr. Snowdon on this one I think.

The paper is one of a series published by the medical journal on the large and growing threat of what are known as non-communicable diseases (NCDs) across the globe – namely cancer, heart disease and stroke, diabetes and respiratory diseases. All are caused partly by our lifestyles – smoking, eating processed food, drinking and taking less exercise – in response to a world where energy-dense food, sugary drinks and alcohol is cheap and heavily marketed.

In 2010, 34.5 million people around the world died from these diseases, which were 65% of all deaths that year.

Dear Lord: this is actually a sign of our success in beating communicable diseases. We now all live long enough to die of non-communicable ones.

Think through this for a moment: we could reduce the number and proportion of non-communicable disease deaths simply by introducing a nice plague. Ban all HIV treatments for example: that would lower those numbers nicely. And that would be absurd of course. Which rather makes the original complaint such, doesn\’t it?

We can even take it one stage further. Imagine that we all ate perfectly healthy diets, no booze, no fags. If we didn\’t die of cancer, heart disease, strike, diabetes or respiratory diseases, what the hell would we die of? Anyone for us all living long enough to die of dementia?

13 comments on “Well, if you\’re going to lie, make it a big lie

  1. Live long enough, and everyone will die of cancer. You can keep a dementia patient alive (why, I’m not sure), but a number of old-age cancers are untreatable.

    As the saying goes, “Most men die with prostate cancer, not of it”.

    Autopsy any 80 year old man who has died of heart attack, and you’ll find incipient prostate cancer. Not the cause of death, but it was there. And there’s no lifestyle link that I’m aware of.

  2. If we didn’t die of cancer, heart disease, strike, diabetes or respiratory diseases, what the hell would we die of?

    This is a good point. People don’t realise that not all lung cancers are caused by smoking (about 2/3rds, yes, but that’s a fuck of a lot from other causes). Same with heart disease, there are all sorts of congenital defects that can make your heart up and quit on no notice.

    You might reduce the number by improving people’s lifestyles, but not by as much as you think.

  3. Funny how life expectancies are rising everywhere then.
    I’m sure life expectancy can be pushed further. If we were all fed a mandatory government approved standardised diet, subject to a curfew outside work hours, and exercise was compulsory, I’m sure we could add another 2 or 3 years easily. Isn’t that the rational, logical end-point of the current approach?
    But when did we decide that 82 miserable years are better than 80 enjoyable ones?

  4. But when did we decide that 82 miserable years are better than 80 enjoyable ones?

    We didn’t. But the failed medics who went in to medicine administration and hence in to medicine & public policy decided this in the mid-70s and have been shifting the Overton Window day by day since then.

  5. Funny how life expectancies are rising everywhere then.

    Reduction in infant mortality is the chief cause for that. Think of how much a 3 month old baby dying skews the average.

    Which only proves how little effect these policies would have (so you’re right in a wrong way Alex). It wouldn’t even achieve the two years you suggest.

    And if anyone tries to take my pork crackling away from me, they’ll find out what life expectancy really means!

  6. “namely cancer, heart disease and stroke, diabetes and respiratory diseases”: why, I wonder, wasn’t the plural also used for “heart disease” and “cancer”? What’s their game?

  7. Once we’ve all started leading the approved lifestyle and living longer the next pressure will be on how anti social and selfish living for 120 years (pick you own number) is and that old people should think more of the younger generations.

    This will lead to pressure to remove once self from this mortal coil, perhaps hemlock or something at age 80 or whenever the productive phase is deemed to end. They could give it a nice name, perhaps something innocuous like the Downing Street Care Pathway?

    Maybe we’ll even end up with life imitating art, again.

  8. Certainly the food, drink and alcohol industries should be regulated with a view to public health. Twas ever thus. The world’s oldest surviving set of laws, the Code of Hammurabi, includes specific punishments for food adulteration, which rather suggests that the problem is at least four thousand years old.

    So I don’t see that this assertion is a “lie”. The only question is what form and extent of regulation is both condign and proportionate.

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