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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Building the nanny state in Wales

This Western Mail headline says it all. It quotes the Welsh health minister as stating that 'This isn't a nanny state; Wales has real health problems'. Yes it does but should that give government carte blanche to legislate to change our behaviour? It is an interesting philosophical point.

In the Assembly plenary yesterday I specifically asked the health minister about the evidence for extending the smoking ban in enclosed spaces to include e-cigarettes. My point was that when we were considering the smoking ban we legislated on the basis of the harmful effect of second hand smoke.  There is no evidence that e-cigarettes cause the same problem.

His reply made it clear that the proposed legislation had nothing to do with the impact of one person's behaviour on another, but it is an attempt to discourage smoking. By all means persuade but I am not in favour of compulsion. That really is the route to a nanny state.

Equally with the proposed minimum price for alcohol, I am sceptical that there is reliable evidence out there that supports this measure as a means of reducing binge drinking. Binge drinking has always struck me as being more of a cultural phenomenon.

We need evidence-based legislation, not laws based on the principle of the state knows best.
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