The National Preventative Health Taskforce has just publicly released its strategy "Australia: The Healthiest Country by 2020".
For probably the first time ever, life expectancy in Australia is getting shorter. Three of the biggest and most preventable killers are tobacco, alcohol and obesity. And high on the list of strategies for discouraging them are "economic policies and taxation systems", which I read (and newspapers are reporting) as "make them more expensive". Not very imaginative, but will it be effective?
For cigarettes, they suggest increasing taxes soon so a pack costs at least $20 and for alcohol, interestingly, creating a 'floor price' - not necessarily increasing the price of all alcohol, but ensuring there's no very cheap stuff. For junk food, they just talk about exploring taxation, incentives, subsidies etc to promote consumption of healthier foods.
Will this help much? Is there a better approach? Has the government reached the extent of what it can reasonably do in terms of banning, taxing, subsidising, promoting, and is the rest up to the community?
Pricing is clearly a factor but it seems to me that changing a culture of smoking and drinking is the big thing - is that something that the government can or should really do?