We did think, now didn’t we, that the Tories would sweep away 14 years of Labour social engineering? Now we are finding out differently. When it comes to our health and our lifestyle choices the Tories, and Cameron in particular, they have found new buzzwords…Nudge Economics. No, I’d never heard of it ether.
What is the big idea of Richard Thaler, the economist quoted by David Cameron and Barack Obama? It comes down to this: you're not as smart as you think. Humans, he believes, are less rational and more influenced by peer pressure and suggestion than governments and economists reckon.You don’t have to go far in the UK to find Nudge Economics being put into practice as the coalition are going back on their word on plain packaging of tobacco products and are also going down the route of minimum pricing and tax rises on alcohol to Nudge us “get off your face on strong beer” plebs into drinking the low alcohol stuff. And no, I don’t drink beer stronger than 5%.
Plain packaging of cigarettes:
Tobacco companies could be forced to sell cigarettes in grey or brown plain packaging in an attempt to deter youngsters from taking up smoking.Minimum pricing called for by NICE:
Ministers are considering switching all brand packs to a standard colour so brightly coloured packages will not lure prospective smokers from a young age.
A spokeswoman from the Department of Health said colourful packs are widely accepted as the last form of marketing available for tobacco companies to recruit new smokers.
A minimum price for a unit of alcohol should be introduced to help tackle the rise in problem drinking in Britain, says NICE.Taxing higher strength beers:
One in 4 men and women are currently drinking dangerous amounts of alcohol that are causing, or have the potential to cause, physical and mental damage.
The number of alcohol-related deaths has more than doubled in the past 16 years, with over 8,000 people dying of conditions such as alcohol poisoning and liver cirrhosis every year.
NICE believes that introducing a minimum price for alcohol alongside other measures that make it harder to buy alcohol, like reducing the number of outlets selling alcohol in a given area or the days and hours that it can be purchased, will help to save thousands of lives each year.
The tax on high-strength beer will rise next year, as part of a drive to tackle alcohol abuse which will also see cuts to the duty levied on weak beer.More of a shove than a nudge I'd say.
The new rates for beer containing more than 7.5 per cent alcohol and less than 2.8 per cent alcohol will be set out in the Budget on March 23.
On Radio4’s The Moral Maze last Wednesday Christopher Snowdon, author of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist and The Spirit Level Delusion, talked about plain packaging as a guest on the show. The show also had columnist James Delingpole amongst others who enlightened the listener with their thoughts on Nudge Economics and is well worth a listen in it’s entirety. Here is a recording of The Moral Maze from Wednesday the 24th of November 2010.
As an aside there is an interesting debate taking place between Christopher Snowdon, Rich White, author of Smoke Screens: The Truth About Tobacco and Frank Davis, blogger extraordinaire.
The debate is called CATCH and the question for debate is “does active smoking cause lung cancer?” The link to Frank’s blog is CATCH 3 but you can scroll down to CATCH 1.