money-2696219_1920.jpgA new study in the June issue of the journal “Mayo Clinic Proceedings has some interesting conclusion about junk food, smoking and consuming alcohol. It argues “for” a sin tax against these vices, as well as on sugary drinks and fatty foods to – dare I say it – improve public health.

I’ve been an advocate of changing public health for many years, and much of what I do depends on changing behavior through education – both individual and through seminars. But further to this, people like myself are simply not reaching the masses. Public health is not taught in schools to the extend that it will have a large-scale impact.

Now obviously, we obviously have to realize that our fixation on individual rights trumping those of the masses will further the deterioration of public health. I’m not arguing against individual rights at all here, as they are enshrined in our founding freedoms. But we have all heard people rail that they have a right to junk food, to smoking, excess drinking, and so on, and I agree whole-heartedly. However, and here’s where the subject gets sticky, its not hard to imagine that these people are the one’s most visiting clinics, hospitals and specialists as they get sick from inappropriate food and lifestyle choices. Now who pays for their health care? The rest of us who take intelligent care of our health bear a large part of this burden, don’t we? So when we speak of rights, let’s also consider those who are forced to prop up a broken system based on selfish and irresponsible irresponsible choices.

Our governments are much to blame for this as they simply do not have the stomach to implement foundational education – at the root level of our children – nor correct companies who poison us.

This study argues correctly that much of overall health depends on behavior and that many common and chronic diseases are directly linked to tobacco smoking, drinking alcohol, eating too much low-quality food and physical inactivity, As such, Dr. Joyner, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and physiologist, points out that sin taxes could address three of these four major behavioral determinants of overall health.

Key points from the article:

  • Sin taxes would generate substantial revenue to be used for subsidizing care for the uninsured.
  • Buffer the fiscal pressures associated with the health care system
  • Promote increased physical activity.
  • Promote better nutrition in the population
  • Build public health infrastructure.
  • Perhaps increase federal funding for biomedical research.

The immediate argument I hear against a sin tax is that it hits the poor disproportionately, leading to higher rates of unhealthy behaviors when compared to other segments of the population. The article counterargument however states that positive behavioral changes associated with these taxes would disproportionately benefit the poor with improved health and promote personal responsibility.

I’m not saying that promoting such a tax would endear my opinion to many, but rather than only entertain the promotion of such a tax affecting the poor, or arguing simply for personal choice, would it not be more reasonable look at options which positively affect the physical, social, and fiscal health of the entire nation?

Again, this argument would not be a first choice for me. Policymakers and political leaders should, but do not, have the backbone to implement changes at the root level for fear of upsetting voters. They allow our national health oversight bodies to make choices based on personal gain and backroom deals with food manufactures and drug makers.

I also don’t want to appear overly pessimistic on the issue either, but I hold little hope for change in our national disease statistics and continued medical monopoly. Your biggest hope lies in educating yourself and promoting personal change on the individual family level. Eat healthy, exercise and make better lifestyle choices to avoid becoming another disease statistic.