Here's more from Doug Sellman on soft drink addiction (and other addictions):
Sellman says those 49 foods are the most addictive. The list includes quiche, sausages, salami, and muesli. If I eat enough quiche, I could trigger genetic switches that will turn me into a dehumanised craver of quiche.* We really ought to remember how Sellman sets the bar on addiction whenever we read him about what has to be done about alcohol, tobacco, fatty foods, soft drinks, muesli, or pastries, or when he compares companies selling unhealthy food to drug dealers. Human agency disappears in his model pretty quickly.People needed to find an activity pleasurable to want to repeat it. If they repeated it enough, it would become a habit, which could then become an addiction.
"As they're doing that there are genetic switches that change free will into a dehumanised state of drug craving and compulsion."Christchurch-based researchers at the University of Otago developed a new list of 49 foods people should avoid and published their findings in the New Zealand Medical Journal earlier this year. The list is of the most addictive foods, Sellman said.The foods were energy and calorie dense, high in fat and/or added sugars, prepared using a high fat cooking method such as frying or roasting, or low in essential nutrients.They included muesli bars, ice cream, cakes, chocolate, doughnuts, jam, honey, pies and pastries. Energy drinks, cordial and fruit drinks also made the list. [EC: updated the link to one that works, emphasis added]
Meanwhile, the anti-tobacco folks are pushing not just for plain packaging, discussed last week, but also for some seriously large excise tax increases. 3 News says the Ministry of Health is pushing for $100 per pack prices. And, helpfully, they've linked the OIA-released MoH advice to the Minister of Health.
The MoH document wasn't nearly as bad as I'd expected.** Instead, it looks like they've commissioned NZIER to do some work on what would actually be necessary to achieve the National-led coalition's goal of a tobacco-free New Zealand by 2025. Unsurprisingly, it'll take some pretty big policy changes: large tax increases, lots of anti-tobacco advertising, and potentially stronger alternative measures. I think at paragraph 6 they might be alluding to tobacco by prescription only when they say "At what point might it be preferable to consider alternative approaches, eg. a new regulatory regime that stringently controls tobacco as a highly toxic, hazardous substance and/or as an extremely addictive, harmful drug?"
At paragraph 54, MoH notes the potentially regressive nature of the excise increase but argues "although the tobacco tax is of itself regressive, increases in the tobacco tax are actually progressive." This might actually be true at the tax levels they're talking about. Marginal changes in tobacco excise are highly regressive; few people quit relative to the increase in tax paid by poor smokers who continue smoking. The O'Dea report said that even a 50% increase in tobacco prices would see 36,990 non-quitting Decile 1 households each spend an extra $928 per year while an estimated 4,110 quitting Decile 1 households would save $2,981; the poorest cohort then winds up spending a net extra $22 million in tobacco excise while decile 10 households spend a net extra $31 million. Excise hikes of the magnitudes being thrown around could conceivably wind up reducing total tobacco excise paid by low decile groups. But they would have other problems:
I don't put a lot of weight on concerns that plain packaging legislation would lead to counterfeiting and smuggling; at least I'm not yet convinced of it. Is it really that hard currently to print fake labels for cigarette packets or to put anti-counterfeiting features into plain cigarette packs? But $100 packs of cigarettes have to yield a fair bit of home-grown tobacco outside of the excise regime and a fair bit of smuggling.***A leading academic says an extreme increase in the price of cigarettes could lead to black market dealing.Speaking in response to a Ministry of Health discussion to raising the cost of a packet of cigarettes to $100 over the next eight years, Otago University health economics lecturer Des O'Dea said: "We all remember the days of prohibition in the United States and what that did to foster organised crime.""While I don't think it would be anywhere near the scale of that, we could well see raids on retailers and a black market develop for cigarettes," he said.
Hopefully making it clear just what is needed to achieve the SmokeFree 2025 goal will have the government think again about the whole thing.
* I choose to avoid this risk, preferring the perilous whole milk and butter. I fear for Seamus though.
** I've read it twice, and I can't find a single reference to the "costs of smoking" number that MoH had been pushing a couple of years ago. Matthew Everett's the MoH contact person on the briefing document and is presumably the same Matthew Everett with whom I'd had fairly extensive discussion about the MoH's figure at the time. I'm glad to see that MoH doesn't seem to be pushing that figure any longer in its policy recommendations.
*** For both alcohol and tobacco, if anybody has ever seen estimates on the elasticity of informal supply through home production or smuggled goods with respect to excise changes, I'd love to see it. I worry that measured estimates of price elasticity of demand might overstate actual consumption decreases if there are reasonable shifts into illicit supply.