What Is the Government’s Role in Public Health?

 

After my post earlier this week, communications staffers with Senator McConnell’s office reached out with some more information about the bill to raise the smoking and vaping age to 21.

I wanted to first share some of that information about why McConnell is taking this bipartisan step (along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). In a story in the Kentucky media, McConnell explains some of his justification,

McConnell noted the epidemic has worsened in recent years as vaping has gained popularity among high-school and even middle school students. The e-cigarettes, such as Juul, still contain nicotine, he said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2017 to 2018, youth e-cigarette users increased by 1.5 million, with more than 1 in 4 high school students having reported using a tobacco product in the past 30 days.

McConnell said he doesn’t expect raising the national age to “solve every problem, but it will sure make it harder for 18 year olds to pass these products along to middle schoolers.”

“It’s time to tackle this public health crisis and I’d like Kentucky to be in the forefront of doing that,” he said.

McConnell acknowledged in a speech on the Senate floor that he seems an “unusual candidate” to lead the charge, but said the negative health effects of tobacco can not be ignored despite tobacco’s “storied past” in Kentucky and the U.S. He recounted some of tobacco’s sway in the Senate, noting that there are still spittoons in the chambers and there once were snuffboxes. The residue on the floors at the Capitol, he noted, was “so considerable that Charles Dickens warned fellow visitors not to pick up anything they dropped.”

But, he said, times have changed: “Kentucky farmers don’t want their children to get hooked on tobacco products while they’re in middle school or high school any more than any parent anywhere wants that to happen.”

A few more important bullet points from McConnell’s press release are below as well:

All of this is interesting and valid, but still smacks more than a bit like the government playing nanny. Consider this recent story about cancer that came out this week. According to CNN, more than 80,000 new cancer cases among adults 20 and older in the United States in 2015 were attributable simply to eating a poor diet, according to a new study.

What should the government do about the scourge of obesity? Is that next on the docket, and if so, how will that government “help” manifest? One can argue, quite easily, that obesity is a greater health risk, when it comes to the number of possible complications of obesity (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc) and a larger number of people possibly being affected.

This is always the fear of small-government conservatives when it comes to well-meaning government proposals meant to save us from ourselves: what next?

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There are 11 comments.

  1. RufusRJones Member

    It’s way, way, way too late now, but I always thought that vaping should have been done by prescription for quitting purposes only. Any drug that makes you feel good and or increases your concentration is going to be a problem. I’d take Ritalin and get hammered every day if I could make it work. They should just let the states deal with it at this point. 

    • #1
    • May 24, 2019, at 7:52 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Hang On Member

    I thought global warming would solve the problem of obesity since it would cause droughts and no more food. They’re sending mixed messages.

    • #2
    • May 24, 2019, at 7:58 AM PDT
    • Like
  3. EJHill Podcaster

    One simple word: Infectious. That’s where you normally draw the line. But that said, the man that pays the piper usually gets to call the tune. As more people begin to rely on government to help them pay their medical bills, the interest of the government in controlling your body will increase.

    In the previous thread, I lamented the role the government played in my own father’s demise and I have no love for tobacco. But is there any doubt after these many years that it causes cancer?

    • #3
    • May 24, 2019, at 8:05 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. colleenb Member

    No Mitch McConnell – do not do anything bipartisan with little Timmy Kaine! That bit of information really makes me distrust this legislation. I understand one’s heart may be in the right place but this is just way to much federal government intrusion on a problem that should be dealt with in a different way. How about saying no sex until 21 because STDs are bad for our health too. I agree on this one with Ms. Mandel and @rufusrjones.

    • #4
    • May 24, 2019, at 8:31 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Stad Thatcher

    Bethany Mandel: This is always the fear of small-government conservatives when it comes to well-meaning government proposals meant to save us from ourselves: what next?

    Monitoring how many fatty foods we consume, along with how much alcohol. It would be done indirectly, by government snoops using computers to sift through grocery store receipts . . .

    • #5
    • May 24, 2019, at 9:36 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. RufusRJones Member

    Here’s another thing to think about. I don’t remember all of the details but I heard an economist talk about the complications of high cigarette taxes in Minnesota. It doesn’t net out when you talk about how hard it is to do enforcement with smuggling and so forth. You lose so much commerce. 

    Central planning almost never works.

    • #6
    • May 24, 2019, at 10:00 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Henry Castaigne Member

    I would make smoking legal 21 and make vaping legal at 18. That way it would make a generation of smokers into vapers and they wouldn’t stink so much when they came back from break. This has nothing to do with higher virtues but I don’t like bad smells. 

    • #7
    • May 24, 2019, at 11:22 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. DonG Coolidge

    Bethany Mandel: What should the government do about the scourge of obesity?

    Can the govt. stop subsidizing corn syrup?

    • #8
    • May 24, 2019, at 11:25 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    DonG (View Comment):

    Bethany Mandel: What should the government do about the scourge of obesity?

    Can the govt. stop subsidizing corn syrup?

    How is corn syrup subsidized? I’m not trying to be a wise guy. I just want to know.

    I believe that there is a sugar tariff, which makes corn syrup more competitive, but if removed, we’d just sweeten stuff with sugar (Brazilian, I think) rather than corn syrup. I don’t think that’s going to help my waistline.

    • #9
    • May 24, 2019, at 2:51 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    Has Mitch McConnell pointed out where in the Constitution it authorizes the federal government to set the smoking age?

    • #10
    • May 27, 2019, at 7:53 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. Stad Thatcher

    DonG (View Comment):

    Bethany Mandel: What should the government do about the scourge of obesity?

    Can the govt. stop subsidizing corn syrup?

    Stop subsidizing ethanol . . .

    • #11
    • May 27, 2019, at 2:18 PM PDT
    • Like