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« Adventures of Mr Benn | Main | Why everyone should watch Top Gear »

Health and hyperbole

Breakfast_100.jpg The public health threat posed by obesity in the UK is a "potential crisis on the scale of climate change", the health secretary has warned. (Full story HERE.) On the scale of climate change? That's a relief. For a nanosecond I was genuinely worried.

On a more serious note, expect more cataclysmic warnings from a government desperate for a "vision" to explain all those new rules and regulations it intends to roll out over the next few years. It's also a perfect excuse to tax anything that moves (or tastes nice!).

This is how modern government works. They scare us to death with a load of scientific mumbo-jumbo and phoney statistics, then introduce legislation to resolve a "problem" that has been hyped out of all proportion to the actual risk. This, in turn, enables them to appear proactive and justifies their existence.

Proclamations such as this are part and parcel of today's political news management. I know, because I've read Alastair Campbell's absorbing book, The Blair Years. The aim is to dictate and dominate the news by issuing an endless stream of soundbites while announcing a million new initiatives.

Today's "warning" is a classic of its kind. It is clearly intended to grab back the initiative from the Conservatives (who have enjoyed their best week for years) and put the government in the driving seat, albeit by frightening us into an early grave!

The story led BBC News last night but was only third top story on ITV. Compare this to the coverage of Prime Minister's Questions last week. Gordon Brown's humiliation at the hands of David Cameron was top story on ITV News, but over on the BBC it was relegated to third place. Make of that what you will.

Reader Comments (6)

Ah yes, makes me think of John of Gaunt's speech from Richard II. You know the one that describes England as:

"This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea..."

Hmm, that was on another planet for today England is peopled by fools!

October 15, 2007 at 16:49 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Gray

Hi, guys.
This is going to seem really off-topic - but
I'd actually written the following post (to be considered but unlikely to be accepted) on an article regarding the latest PR 'Smoking Ban Reduces Heart Attack' scam attempt, and had tried to enter it as comment on the Freedom To Choose blog presenting it, which wouldn't take it.
(Egads, I really feel rejected now.)
In any event, since the distraction and use of victim blame strategies by industry and government so often drawn from the corporate pool that the connected umbilical ties form cats cradles across the globe are the same for all health issues, including the obesity issue... here it is.
I'll bet my comment won't be published, so I thought I'd plunk it here to give anyone interested a chance to consider these points.
Cardiovascular and respiratory incidents rise and fall with levels of/proximity to such things as vehicular, coal-fired plant and industrial pollution, not with variations in population smoking rates.
Amines would not distort into nitrosamines in tobacco or food crops if not for such practices as are involved in the use of artificial nitrates, the production involving the combustion of coal and kerosene, with the attendant addition of toxins from these fossil fuels.
The heavy metals of concern in tobacco and food crops (such as cadmium) appear not only because of general air pollution deposits but because of the use of sewage sludge and even designated toxic waste (the latter legal in the U.S.) in and as (unlabelled) fertilizer, providing profit to discarding industry from what would otherwise be a liability piling up at toxic waste sites - requiring costly maintenance to prevent contamination of soil and water.
And when organizations such as Scorecard ( ) obtained reluctantly released EPA data to discover that the cancer risk of diesel emissions (which 'totally transformed our scientific understanding of which chemicals and pollution sources are responsible for the largest part of the air toxics problem' with 'the cancer risks from diesel emissions ... about ten times higher than the cancer risks from all other hazardous pollutants combined',) the (unpublicized) EPA National-Scale Assessment of Air Toxics (NATA) - like the Multiple Air Toxics Exposure Study (MATES-2), based on 1998 monitoring data - showed that diesel emissions formed '80% of the total estimated cancer risk from all hazardous air pollutants...' as well as 'extensive noncancer health risks', the PR media releases typically employed the numbers from this, as well as those from the global asbestos cancer epidemic and myriad other unpublicized and ongoing lucrative health disasters for which industry and governments could be held liable, in attributing them all to personal choices.
(In example, re Exxon Mobil giving Stanford U up to $100 million over ten years in 2002 announcement, with results evident in Faculty where research is to be univerally limited to those financially interested in supporting victim blame.)
Now that giant industry, including BP and Exxon, are providing hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to universities around the globe, once-respected and independent institutions of study are producing 'industry-friendly' policies and studies, even in one case issuing a media statement terming the proven as well as suspected effects of air pollution (implicating the fund-scattering oil industry) as an alternate theory of disease causation apparently invented by the tobacco industry - this personal choice/victim blame strategy used by toxic industry in redirecting, blaming and restricting the victims of their profitable pollutants in the avoidance of costs associated with reduction, compensation and/or abatement otherwise required.
(Smokers even more than the rest of society literally pay for these tactics, with both their money and their lives - but this costs us all our freedom and ability of defence as well.)
Not only the health of the human global population but that of all life on Earth is progressively more adversely affected by the result of destructive and self-interested industry control - enacted through various governments in defiance of their democractic mandate - of the dissemination and interpretation of scientific/industry information, and of public and environmental policies too often designed to protect industry against all public defence, while using 'protective' law to declare the public incompetent and in need of control by commercial 'health authorities' redirecting attention from uncontrolled industry abuses to the 'need' to micromanage individual lives.
Petrochemicals in every aspect of our existance - cleaners, plastics, upholstery, clothing, fertilizers, furniture and various implements, as well as fuels - have been directly associated with rising rates of disease and dysfunction, with mechanisms of causation often evident.
Many other powerful industries - including multi-connected pharmaceutical conglomerates - also produce products suspected or known to produce or contribute to often widespread health and/or environmental issues.
It is typically such as these, despite repeated exposures involving falsified studies and claims, proven knowledge and concealment of ongoing harm and/or multiple instances of premature deaths caused by profitable products, who 'acceptably' fund and produce studies intended to promote product sales and avoid liability, in the guise of 'health' information.
But global concern is carefully focused both on smoking bans and on thereafter enforcing sale only of the toxic and appropriately named 'RIP' cigarettes instead of those (safely, in Canada, at least) smoked previously - by law - world-wide, while small family tobacco farmers are driven out of business by government marketing boards across North America and tobacco then produced offshore where legal restrictions and oversight cannot apply, and with Health Canada for one identifying only as a 'starch-like substance' the chemical (?) added to all cigarette papers.
As Health Canada fired scientists Shiv Chopra and others several years previously for impeding anticipated pharmaceutical profits by refusing to pass without data damaging and/or carcinogenic drugs and hormones into the Canadian food supply, their priorities, regardless of party in office, have been self-established as thoroughly as have those of similar 'protective' agencies in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Organic is not to be an option, and it's said that as tobacco is already toxic, worsening the toxicity can be of no concern.
And if smokers shortly begin to sicken and die in order of RIP appearance across each country of the world, there will be no investigation, because smokers are an expendable group.
As are a growing list of others.
We are all being driven, distracted, into a corner where we cannot get in the way of global profiteering.
And I can't say that (so to speak) does anyone's heart good.

October 16, 2007 at 6:04 | Unregistered CommenterEllen North

The anti-smoking campaign clearly is no more than a well-orchestrated campaign to protect the medical profession from the hazard of multiple law suits for long-standing malpractice in the indiscriminate use of ionising radiation on unsuspecting patients (victims).

An x-ray image is a high-definition version of the image left on a wall by somebody after being shot with a shotgun. It's the part where the pellets didn't penetrate, and high-definition only because the pellets are tiny.

It is as preposterous to suppose a safe x-ray dose as it would be to propose a safe number of times to get shot!

Few medical practitioners (most of whom are still little better than witch doctors) are aware of this FACT.

The recently late John Gofman was a notable exception (,1,5595050,full.story?coll=la-news-obituaries&ctrack=2&cset=true)

October 17, 2007 at 10:51 | Unregistered CommenterEnkidu34

Now the government has 'sorted out them smokers' they are now turning their attention to the 'larger members of the public' (putting it kindly!). As a smoker all I can say to a chubbier smoker when they start being persecuted is "know how you feel mate" and all I'll say to a chubbier non smoker who enjoyed the smokers fate is "goes round - comes round"

December 4, 2007 at 0:00 | Unregistered CommenterSandra Jean

Global Warming was an idear from Maggy Thather to get rid of Arther Scargill, and nothing else.
England was a wine making country a few hundred years ago, take a look at the churches in England you will finf grapes carved in the stone work because the wine paid for the churchs.
And how the hell is this a pasife smoking law when i`m driving at work on my own?????????????????

May 31, 2008 at 18:04 | Unregistered CommenterGraham Brown.

There is no such word as proactive; please desist in using it. Active is a good enough word to stand alone !

July 29, 2008 at 23:55 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Holmes

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