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Regulation and the prevention agenda

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Laws should scaffold food and alcohol industry self-regulation to improve unhealthy environments and prevent disease

Australians face crippling rates of chronic disease. The main culprits are behavioural risk factors that reflect unhealthy lifestyles: record levels of obesity, misuse of alcohol, tobacco use and too much salt, fat and sugar in our diets. Healthier and longer lives are possible, but new ways of influencing consumer choices are required. While educational strategies are important for individuals, they rarely succeed as population-wide interventions. Often, the problem is not lack of knowledge but difficulty in translating knowledge into action in unhealthy environments. Regulation and legislation play an important role in shaping healthier choices, but every gain for public health runs up against reflexive beliefs about individual responsibility and the “nanny state”.

Unhealthy lifestyles earn vast revenues for Big Tobacco, Big Alcohol and Big Food. The latter two industries have cleverly populated the policy space with weak, self-regulatory initiatives that are surprisingly…