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Sunday, March 07, 2004

Nanny State

Although there is no debate in the Conference on this subject there was some discussion of a ban on smoking in public places on the fringe. Some people call this the Nanny State. That is a phrase I intend to use in the debate on the fluoridation of domestic water later today. It is also a phrase being used on the news this morning about proposals to ban the smacking of children.

It is my view that a public smoking ban is essential if we are to deal with passive smoking and the growth of respiratory disease. There are those who say that this will have an adverse on the leisure industry, but my experience of such a ban in San Francisco is that when there is a level playing field, people adjust and businesses carry on as usual. With regards to a ban on the smacking of children there is, in fact, a lot of misunderstanding around this measure. The object is not to stop reasonable chastisement but to prevent the defence of reasonable chastisement being used to fight a charge of excessive violence against a child as it has in the past. There is nothing "Nanny State" about such a measure. This proposal is an essential child-protection issue.

The adding of fluoride to domestic water supplies is a different matter. This is mass-medication, an infringement of civil liberties and a cop-out from proper public health measures and an investment in NHS dentistry. It is a sobering thought that the average adult today consumes 130lbs of sugar each year. Is it any wonder that there is tooth decay and ill-health? If the Government were to tackle the addition of sugar in such quantities to processed food for example, educate children and adults into eating more fresh fruit and vegetables and basic dental hygiene and if they were to guarantee NHS dental treatment for all then we would not need to add a poison like fluoride to our water supply. As with many other issues however, they take the easy way out and create even more problems.

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