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Speaker: Talking past each other: Ideological silos and research

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  • Sacha,

    The positions of Simmons and the libertarians seem fundamentally opposed on this topic. Not sure how you can reconcile that. His Twitter timeline has featured some relevant discussions lately.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • mike.riversdale,

    A most excellent article, thank you

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 27 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell,

    Great article. I agree. For the record the Drug Foundation did provide feedback on the alcohol and e-cigarettes chapters.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 168 posts Report Reply

  • Marc C,

    Thanks for this article, I have long been worried about certain “think tanks” and vested interest funded or resourced initiatives and organisations that present often somewhat one-sided “research” and findings. They seem to have the peers that suit their ends, to review stuff, and then give it the scientific credentials.

    Silos there are all over the place, and depending on the government of the day, some are larger than others, and some are kept for longer than others.

    The dominant thought silos I see under our present government are stuff I worry about, as they just love that “market solves everything” idea, which in my view is certainly ideological. The evidence seems to come from selected few, convenient sources, which I am sure, will in future years be considered worthy to be questioned for their supposed merits.

    It takes time for mistakes and flaws to be seen and then admitted to, often “trials” and new approaches will simply suddenly vanish from the public attention, and quietly get abandoned, as if they never existed in the first place. That perhaps is the arts of politics and government, in its application and implementation.

    Akl • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    I agree that the consumer should not pay a sugar or fat tax, that would be penalising the victims of the consumerist hegemony. The manufacturers of products that cause the harms should be given the hospital bills, accrued from an aggregation of the costs of diabetes, heart failure, cirrhosis etc.,as a tax deductible cost of manufacture. This would be reflected in having the true cost of the product on the shelves, not one that is already massively underwritten by the taxpayer through the health system.

    Since Mar 2010 • 378 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    If a substance is harmful, why not ban it rather than taxing it? Sugary drinks have zero nutritional benefit and many proven harms.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Sacha,

    If a substance is harmful, why not ban it rather than taxing it? Sugary drinks have zero nutritional benefit and many proven harms

    I can think of many things which have no nutritional benefit and proven harms when misused - jogging, loud music, summer days on the beach - what makes sugary drinks specially ban-worthy?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • steve black, in reply to Sacha,

    If a substance is harmful, why not ban it rather than taxing it? Sugary drinks have zero nutritional benefit and many proven harms.

    The main argument for not banning something outright is that when you ban it you give up pretty much any chance to monitor and regulate strength and purity, labeling, availability (when and where it is sold), and so on. It all becomes unregulated black market. Want to see what happens when the idealized free market takes over? Just look at banned products like cannabis, meth-amphetamine, heroin, etc. There needs to be a well chosen balance between different approaches. Which is why real dialogue between the two factions described in this article should be better than talking past one another. In theory…

    sunny mt albert • Since Jan 2007 • 116 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Sacha,

    People would fabricate soft drinks in clandestine coke labs.

    Then they would ban sugar.

    People would extract sugar from vegetable and other food items in clandestine sugar labs.

    Then they would ban carbohydrate containing foods.

    Then we would all die because the human body requires carbohydrates as metabolic fuel.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Sacha,

    If a substance is harmful, why not ban it rather than taxing it? Sugary drinks have zero nutritional benefit and many proven harms.

    Because prohibition really does not work.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I'd laugh at The New Zealand Initiative if they didn't have so much political power. I'd find them funnier if my alma mater (University of Auckland) had not seen fit to endorse them - a WTF moment if there ever was one.

    I can imagine them meeting forty years ago and concluding taxing cigarettes and banning smoking in public places would have no benefit to society.

    The evidence is clear (mostly from cigarette taxation), increasing the price of a product via taxation or duty is a tremendously powerful tool for changing consumer behaviour.

    For me then, there are two remaining questions.

    Is there a health problem associated with high sugar foods?
    All the data in the literature show a very high correlation between such foods and a number of serious health problems. I'm sure someone can find industry-funded "research" showing no such association, but I believe those studies as much as I believe the studies from the tobacco companies "proving" tobacco is harmless.

    The second question is:
    Should our representatives in government act to improve the health of the population and thus reduce healthcare costs?
    That of course is an ideological question. For me the answer WTF else should they be doing?????? But then I'm not paid by soft drink companies to have another opinion and nor is my opinion for sale like my alma mater's.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    To paraphrase:

    Is there a health problem associated with high sugar foods?
    All the data in the literature show a very high correlation between such foods and a number of serious health problems. I’m sure someone can find industry-funded “research” showing no such association, but I believe those studies as much as I believe the studies from the tobacco companies “proving” tobacco is harmless.

    Something must be done!

    The evidence is clear (mostly from cigarette taxation), increasing the price of a product via taxation or duty is a tremendously powerful tool for changing consumer behaviour.

    This is something...

    Should our representatives in government act to improve the health of the population and thus reduce healthcare costs?
    That of course is an ideological question. For me the answer WTF else should they be doing??????

    Therefore we must do it!

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Here's the thing: we also know that obesity-related illness correlates with poverty and membership of certain ethnic groups (which also correlate with poverty). Now I don't know if high consumption of sugar is also related to poverty. But: if it is, then taxing sugar is going to hit the people with the least money hardest, which is a bit crap. If it isn't, then taxing sugar won't address the root of the problem. And either way, it sounds to me like the real obvious solution is to end fucking poverty.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • Scott Ferguson, in reply to Sacha,

    If a substance is harmful, why not ban it rather than taxing it? Sugary drinks have zero nutritional benefit and many proven harms.

    Given the many proven harms, one can justify the tax based on the cost to the taxpayer of treating the afflicted. If citizens choose to consume unhealthy food, and in so doing increase the profits of processed food manufacturers, then the price of the food should at least approximate the true cost to the public.

    New Zealand • Since Dec 2014 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to James Butler,

    the real obvious solution is to end fucking poverty.

    But then how could the wealthy feel superior?.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    "But: if it is, then taxing sugar is going to hit the people with the least money hardest, which is a bit crap."

    Which is why we should tax the manufacturer and not the consumer, which is less crap. This tax can be directly sent to the health services like road taxes for roads.

    Since Mar 2010 • 378 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to william blake,

    tax the manufacturer and not the consumer

    These amount to the same thing.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    Same but different.

    Since Mar 2010 • 378 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to william blake,

    No, actually the same. A 10% tax on sugar is a 10% tax on sugar - no matter where it's collected, the price to the consumer is the same (actually, if you tax the manufacturer at 10% the consumer pays more because GST, but now I'm quibbling).

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Darlington,

    ...Dr Toomath comes to the conclusion that a lot of the factors leading to obesity are genetic.

    This despite obesity rates skyrocketing since the end of the 1970s? I'm not an endocrinologist, but I don't have to be one to know genetic factors don't work like that. Toomath declares food companies and their marketing strategies to blame for increasing obesity, without pausing to consider whether the decades she's spent encouraging people to adopt low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets might have something to do with their inability to lose weight. Before removing the mote from the food industry's eye she might usefully address her attention to the beam in her own.

    Since Nov 2006 • 56 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to James Butler,

    then taxing sugar is going to hit the people with the least money hardest

    Guess what - that is exactly the same argument used against raising taxes on cigarettes. more poor people smoke therefore taxing smokes is targeting the poor unfairly.

    If you tax the companies they respond by raising the price and you create a more complex tax system with more loopholes.

    The whole point is to make the choice for people simple buy expensive sugary products or cheaper non-sugary products.

    That approach has been shown to work for tobacco.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Tim Darlington,

    I don’t have to be one to know genetic factors don’t work like that

    Sorry but you are wrong. Genetics does work like that. You have a base frequency of a specific genotype, in this case tendency towards obesity.

    You then change environmental conditions, in this case availability of calories. What happens then is the frequency of obesity goes up AND those people who are obese have a common genetic makeup.

    The best analogy I heard was this - think of a swimming pool with a shallow and deep end. Your genotype defines where in the pool you stand. Now add another metre of water and people who were standing before are drowning now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Guess what - that is exactly the same argument used against raising taxes on cigarettes. more poor people smoke therefore taxing smokes is targeting the poor unfairly.

    Yes, this is also regressive and unfair.

    The whole point is to make the choice for people simple buy expensive sugary products or cheaper non-sugary products.

    ...by increasing their overall food spend and pocketing the difference. Still not buying it.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Tim Darlington,

    Dr Toomath comes to the conclusion that a lot of the factors leading to obesity are genetic.

    This despite obesity rates skyrocketing since the end of the 1970s? I’m not an endocrinologist, but I don’t have to be one to know genetic factors don’t work like that.

    Could also happen if the relevant genes are prevalent in immigrant populations, and the immigration rate goes up.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    By taxing the manufacturer it becomes their job to reformulate the food, with less sugars, fats, pesticides etc, which is the objective here.

    Since Mar 2010 • 378 posts Report Reply

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