Sunday, 31 January 2010

Underage Drinking Getting Worse

There have been a deluge of reports recently about underage drinking.

All lament the consequences and long term impact to health ... and ultimately to society. Officials scurry to impose tougher restrictions on irresponsible retailing, or to authorize the confiscation of alcohol on streets.

Experts postulate. Politicians pontificate. The media stirs the brew with relentless vigor.

Kids are interviewed and the one common thread is that they could care less. If there's a party going down, they want to be there. If they can't access booze directly, they'll just get someone of legal age to do their bidding for them.

It's hardly a logistical hiccup!

They're bored and jaded. Besides their parents drink too. So it would be hypocritical for them to attempt to intervene.

Not that they would. Most think it is not really that serious. Someone elses' mess.

The NHS picks up the tab. The law enforcement agents buffer the abuse. And in the morning they sleep it off and hopefully haven't drowned in their own vomit.

People shake their heads and wonder why something more definitive can't be done.

Maybe we could remove the branding like the cigarette companies are being forced to. No ... drinking can't be as serious as smoking. Everyone knows that smoking is "bad" for you.

But drinking, well that's different. It's more ... social. Everybody does it! Come on. Lighten up man.

Get a sense of humor, why don't you.

This, my friends, is why the problem will continue to persist. Because of the universal hypocricy of everybody in the equation.

Heavier taxes, lip service and neutral branding will make no real impact ... other than to annoy and further alienate a giant segment of the population.

While we continue to treat young people like a separate species, incapable of responsible discretion ... they will continue not to disappoint.

Getting real is the first step.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Hidden Danger Of Saturated Fat

It appears that many people have no idea about the dangers of saturated fat hidden in "foods" like butter.

In fact a gentleman by the name of Shyam Kolvekar, a cardiac surgeon from the Heart Hospital at University College, London, suggests that this problem is now so serious that he is seeing people in their 30's requiring coronary bypass surgery.

While some fat is required to keep our bodies healthy, protected and insulated ... too much, especially of the wrong kind, can cause major problems. It seems peoples' only concern is with calories.

Apparently the problem is particualrly prevalent in some Asian communities that customarily drench most meals in ghee, or "clarified butter".

Loaded with saturated fat and eaten over a sustained period, this particular delight inevitably leads to blocked arteries and a fatty heart muscle. In fact, the blood vessels supplying the heart with life-giving oxygenated blood in many such cases, are actually invisible to the surgeons who do the bypass operations.

Commentary "from the trenches" suggests the problem is now so serious that some surgeons are not entirely opposed to the idea of a ban on butter.

But when this was tabled for discussion on BBC Breakfast, people were quick to react with anger.

"What's next ... a ban on milk and cheese?"

Which raises a common theme: people cling tenaciously to the notion that they should have the freedom to kill themselves if they so choose. Smokers seem relaxed that their habit will lead to their own untimely demise and cost the NHS billions.

Likewise, people want to be able to continue to consume butter, fried snacks, pastries, baked goods and confectionery without sanction.

Which brings me to the whole point of this commentary.

Saying "no" always gets peoples' backs up! Bans never do anything but create resentment and a black market ... so why on earth do we still keep threatening to even consider them?

If grown, sentient adults want to die a painful, premature death and cause untold suffering to themselves and their loved ones, then let them! Just quit expecting the NHS to pick up the tab.

Ahh ... but that would be unfair. Sufferers of heart disease have a genetic predisposition to that particular ailment.


It's totally preventable. The fact that two poor souls in the same blood line had bypass sugery before middle age is indicative, not of bad genes, but of irresponsible consumption.

In today's blame culture, adults are no longer responsible for anything. So we must give them guidelines and boundaries.

Just like we do with children.

No wonder people object and get defensive about cultural mainstays such as dairy, believing them to be "health foods".

But wait a moment, I thought dairy was good for you?

No my friend. That's what the advertising says. Actually dairy is designed for unweaned cows and is loaded with animal fat (saturated fat and cholesterol). Even skimmed milk contains a disproportionate amount of unusable protein (rendered so by the process of pasteurisation) which causes digestive difficulties.

Milk also creates acidity in the body, which means that calcium must be leached from teeth and bones to neutralize this. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that this fact offsets any of the potential bone-protecting benefits touted by the industry.

Which brings me to another point, which is that we have so successfully complicated the practical application of nutritional science that people just "shut off" when they hear some expert banging on about the hazards of all the food we eat.

So even basic messages like stop eating butter are distorted.

Case in point ... instead of butter, we are told we should be eating "healthy margarine" with added "healthy" omega-3's and chlorophyll. They even find doctors to lend credibility to these absurdities.

What a crock! Literally!

How can we allow major food manufacturers to tout these substances as "healthy" options, while simultaneously considering a sanction on foods that are falling out of fashion. It's just plain confusing and annoys the heck out of most people who just want to be left in peace.

Until we stop pandering to the food manufacturers and start telling the truth, people will continue to rationalize their indulgences and the NHS will continue to creak under the unsustainable load created by the costs of managing preventable disease.

We have painted ourselves into a corner from which there can be no easy escape.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Finland Moves Towards Banning Smoking

Finland has extended its anti-tobacco laws to include a ban on cigarette displays in shops and restricting smoking in cars with passengers under 18 years of age.

One thing is clear ... the Finnish government wants to outlaw smoking completely and is prepared to take on the might of the tobacco giants. Philip Morris is already investigating its legal options.

Do we care? Smokers do!

Not too long ago we laughed (nervously) at the idea of banning smoking in public places. Today it's a reality. People acknowledge that smoking is offensive to non-smokers and the idea of a smokers' section is now seen as about as ludicrous as offering the public a "urination" section in a public swimming pool.

So ... where's this all going and should we be concerned?

I think there's a bunch of issues here.

Freezing people out of polite society and pandering to their sense of guilt (that they are harming themselves and blighting their own kids) is seen by many as extreme. Even though that's precisely what's happening.

Why can't we appeal to responsible adults to be considerate?

And what happens if we don't arrest this dangerous headlong descent towards an Orwellian reality? First the nanny state infiltrates its slimy tentacles into public spaces. Next vending machines (which are accessible to all) are removed. People are then prohibited to smoke in their own cars.

What next?

The nanny state morphs into a "bully" state and legislates what we do in our own homes?

Hmm ... when presented in that light there is a distinct flavor of unwelcome control and invasion. Adults are no longer capable of making responsible decisions, so we will shepherd them towards something more in line with someone's vision of how society should be.

Pretty repugnant!

But let's look at the practical reality.

People are anything but considerate. At least a huge number of us. If we were all kind and sensitive to the needs of others I would be the tooth fairy and people would stop smoking in their cars with their babies in the back seat.

In fact, if we really could be trusted, people would not need legislation to buckle up, or not park in the handicapped spot, or not pee in public.

"But I smoke with the windows down ..."

Yeah lady, that mentality is precisely why our civil liberties have been quietly neutered.

It's kinda like with children. Want to live in my house, you'll have to live by my rules. It's for your own protection.

And it is!

What moron in their right mind smokes with their kid in the car, windows up or down? It's so stupid and reckless, it's horsed things up for the rest of us!

Now we do have to be told what to do.

Because we were so busy selfishly defending our own rights that we lost all reasonable perspective.

And now we're being treated like children ... incapable of responsible distinction.

Thanks a lot!

And yes, it is the height of hypocrisy and inconsistency that Big Brother is attacking smokers when alcohol is still freely available and arguably far more offensive because of the element of violence.

But because we have a track record of irresponsible consumption, no doubt that will be on the agenda at some point in the future.

Which brings me full circle ... people know, but they just don't care. On a planet built for less than 2 or 3 billion (I'm being hugely generous here, but stay with me), there are now way too many bats in the belfry.

And this makes us control freaks nervous.

To be honest, I'm not sure what the answer is. I find so many elements on both sides strange, even offensive.

I have learnt from my foray into "health" that people value their right to harm themselves even if they do have at least some appreciation of the consequences. Rubbing their noses in the facts only gets peoples' backs up.

So does acting like you are somehow "better".

So does acting "holier than thou". In fact, unsolicited selling is just plain obnoxious in anybody's book. That's human nature ... and it ain't going to change.

Stay out of peoples' private business, why don't you? Sure, if it only affects you chum!

I've also learnt that people adjust quickly.

Seat belt laws may have been an irritant when they were first introduced. But over time even naturally rebellious people have come to appreciate the importance of buckling up.

But we still get really peeved if we get caught without a seat belt, even if we are maleable.

So that fine line is moveable and adults don't like feeling stupid, or having their knuckles rapped ... or getting a fine that's just a little more painful than a mosquito.

Come to think of it, nor do kids.

And maybe that's were the problem all started? Why do we insist on treating kids like their opinions don't matter? Because we know better ...?

Do we?

Most of all though, I have come to realize that society is never more disharmonious than when we start pointing out differences between people.

Is Finland right?

You tell me. You've heard what I think.