It is a discussional paper, part of which wrestles with the question, "when, and how, is it appropriate for the Government to intervene to change people’s behaviour?".
You see, government has already decided for itself that it is perfectly justified in telling you what to do, the problem has always been reconciling that with the widely-respected 'harm principle' as laid out by John Stuart Mill, which states:
That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.Because this has always been a bit of a stumbling block for bansturbators when it comes to obesity and alcohol. Despite weak attempts at installing fears of passive drinking and passive obesity, the public remain largely unconvinced.
Indeed, when it is pointed out that the public health lobby are coming after drinkers and fatties as soon as they're done with smoking on any comments thread, the smug responses fly in as to how alcohol and obesity harm only the individual hence the government can't touch them.
Time to think again, folks (Behaviour Change, page 107 [pdf], emphasis mine).
[...] some policies which restricted choice for some enabled choice for others. For example, restricting alcohol consumption through fiscal measures could restrict choice for some by making it more expensive to drink, but might enable choice for others who could walk home safely at night (assuming a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour as a result of reduced alcohol consumption). Certain restrictions on individual choice limit population harm and could be justified on Millian and many other grounds. Alcohol, smoking and obesity also harm the population by their cost to the NHS and, in the case of alcohol, increased rates of crime. It could therefore be argued that tackling these problems did prevent harm to others, so fell within the meaning of the ‘harm principle’.Well, you didn't think they'd let a long dead philosopher's wisdom get in the way of their self-righteous crusades, did you?
That's the overweight totally screwed then and, as Chris Snowdon pointed out yesterday, those attacking alcohol are at a position comparable to that of tobacco control around 20 years ago, using the same methods as well as sometimes the same personnel. By the same token, organisations - like the hubristic CAMRA, for example - which champion drinkers' rights, may only have a couple of decades to go before they are vilified along the same lines as Forest.
Sadly, it's probably too late for them to do anything about it. Vivienne Nathanson has already let the cat out of the bag by calling for the same 'denormalisation' process for alcohol as was used against tobacco, and don't think they're getting away with it by being moderate drinkers, either. When it is roundly accepted - which it will be - that there is "no safe level for alcohol consumption", it'll be considered just as irresponsible and potentially harmful to others whether drinking just one pint of Old Speckled Hen or three bottles of White Lightning by the neck.
Still, just like smokers of the late 80s and early 90s, drinkers can still cling to the fact that there are just too many of them to take on. And that's never going to change, now is it?
Give it time.
The simple fact is that without the success of tobacco control, the Lords committee distortion of Millian principles quite simply wouldn't have taken place; denormalisation as a valid coercive tool would have been reined in; and more care would be afforded in the UK by politicians to lifestyle liberties and personal responsibility.
The drinks industry and associated organisations had a part to play in that battle ... and blew it. They now have many years to reap the public health blight nurtured by their naïve isolationist arrogance.