To all those zealots who, ten years ago, mixed delight with schadenfreude at the outright ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants and didna ken that the health fascists behind it would ever come for them…..well, ye ken noo!
The smoking ban was justified by government largely on the grounds of protecting non-users of tobacco from passive smoking. Thus proposed compromises more in tune with a liberal society (e.g. smoking rooms with enhanced ventilation levels) were dismissed because of the perceived threats to employees.
Yet Professor Sir Richard Doll, the medical expert in the UK most associated with first linking cigarettes to lung cancer, insisted that passive smoking, though unpleasant to some, presented virtually no danger to the health of other adults. Sir Richard, a 20 a day man until his mid-forties, maintained this stance until he died, aged 92.
So while the jury is still out on the dangers tobacco smoke presents to non-users, no such claims can be made about sugary, fizzy drinks, which affect only those who seriously over-indulge.
No one has ever been knocked down by a driver or assaulted by a passer-by ‘high’ on just Irn-Bru, Fanta or Pepsi Cola.
Yet according to press reports some soor plooms among Scottish health campaigners have turned their ire on soft drinks on the grounds that these help induce obesity and are a cancer risk.
Not content with the forthcoming tax on sugar (the virtues of which are itself debatable) they are now calling for bans on advertising and sponsorship of soft drinks – brazenly using anti-smoking measures as examples of ‘success’.
Not being a medical expert, I have no opinion on the veracity or otherwise of these claims; my argument is that the extent to which health is adversely affected by soft drinks is, to a large extent, less important than the power of self-styled health bodies and the influence they have over both ordinary people and the business sector.
If you are seriously concerned about public health but value individual freedom which, within certain limits, is the cornerstone of a liberal democracy, then the most appropriate route is educating consumers rather than targeting businesses manufacturing soft drinks which, unless taken to excess, harm no one.
It is the responsibility of parents, not manufacturers, to control the intake of sugary drinks in children and adolescents. Similarly adults themselves; anyone over the age of 18 and with half a brain is already aware that consuming a 330ml can several times a week is perfectly reasonable…..whereas necking down two litres of the stuff on a daily basis might not be in their best interests.
The responsibility of the end-user to police his or her own intake of sugary drinks is further emphasised by the fact that almost every brand of soft drink also has a low-sugar or low-calorie alternative.
Some of those who prefer the full-sugar version complain that low-calorie drinks ‘just don’t taste right’. Well, tough. At least they have a choice.
Unfortunately personal responsibility does not fit the agenda of health-promoting bodies, which are invariably funded by the taxpayer and stuffed with people who have a background in the public sector or charities (themselves mainly funded by government) and who, to various degrees, are of a left-wing persuasion. As such they would rather target businesses than lazy parents or irresponsible adult individuals.
It is all part of a wider modern abrogation of personal responsibility. Invariably, a defence lawyer will excuse the behaviour of a young, thuggish client on the grounds that he got into ‘bad company’; but this ‘bad company’ usually consists of shadowy figures who are never identified.
Similarly with people trafficked into the UK who are always given the status of ‘victims’ by the BBC, Channel 4 News and newspapers like The Guardian. That by putting themselves into the hands of people-traffickers, the ‘victims’ knew they were entering this country illegally is a non sequitur.
No doubt those within the publicly-funded health promotion sector consider their actions to be ‘community-minded’ without giving a thought to what, for example, a ban on advertising and sponsorship might do for employment levels at the Cumbernauld factory of AG Barr, the maker of Irn-Bru and one of the most successful-ever of Scottish companies.
But it is not only soft drink manufacturers (and food processors, being similarly targeted) who need to worry. By implication the threat extends across the whole of industry.
For example, a company has been successfully manufacturing prams and buggies for decades until some health-promoting busybody discovers one of the components contains a mineral which just might harm either an infant or parents who regularly open and fold the contraption. Even if the chance of harm is around a million to one, it could be enough for a call for a ban or at least an expensive modification of the product.
When health and safety took off in the 1970s many businesses saw only additional costs for little advantage yet much of the legislation once considered dangerously revolutionary has led to positive practices that are now considered the norm.
Unfortunately the field now seems to have been taken over by a certain excessive zeal that sometimes defies logic. In theory, therefore, no reputable business is completely safe; what affects one affects them all.
Those MPs clamouring to be allowed a vote to accept or reject whatever Brexit deal is eventually struck with the EU insist they are being faithful to the democratic process. In reality this is a tactic of delay and obfuscation by bad loser Bremoaners in the hope of subverting the referendum result by default.
What they are seeking to do is the complete antithesis of democracy.