On 30 September the government will introduce plain packaging on cigarettes, a policy designed to make tobacco products less inviting to consumers. Also, the Minister of Health Simon Harris has made clear he wants the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill – which would introduce minimum pricing on alcohol – implemented this autumn. The unifying theme of both measures is to blunt the appeal of smoking and drinking – discouragement of bad habits finessed by government intervention.
To many, this seems unexceptionable. After all, if it is in the gift of the state to care for its citizens’ welfare, why not their health too? But there are other issues at stake in this debate – issues that go to the heart of personal autonomy and the relationship of the individual to the state. Implicit in these measures is the notion that we would err if left to our own devices, that we would find the lure of temptation irresistible unless prohibitive cost is imposed and alluring branding is abolished. Proponents argue that as creatures of consumerism it is only natural that low cost and recognisable branding tickle our sweet spot.
But do these measures work, and if so, what does that say about us? Does minimum alcohol pricing only end up adversely affecting those on more limited budgets? On the other hand, if these measures enjoy the support of government and health professionals, is that not sufficient warrant for their implementation? Is this a slight on autonomy that lovers of liberty can let pass for the greater good?
Dublin Salon, with the support of Forest, are delighted to host Christopher Snowdon, author of Selfishness Greed and Capitalism: Debunking Myths about the Free Market for a discussion and Q&A. All welcome.
7.00 p.m. Tuesday September 26, 2017
CCT College Dublin, 30-34 Westmoreland St., Dublin 2
Christopher Snowdon is the head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs. His research focuses on social freedoms, prohibition and policy-based evidence. He is a regular contributor to the Spectator Health blog and often appears on TV and radio discussing social and economic issues.
Snowdon is the editor of the Nanny State Index and the author of four books: Selfishness, Greed and Capitalism (2015), The Art of Suppression (2011), The Spirit Level Delusion (2010) and Velvet Glove, Iron Fist (2009). He has also written more than a dozen reports for the Institute of Economic Affairs including ‘Drinking, Fast and Slow’, ‘The Proof of the Pudding: Denmark’s Fat Tax Fiasco’, ‘Cheap as Chips’, ‘Sock Puppets’ and ‘Closing Time: who’s killing the British pub?’