- After a crackdown on saloon drinking backed by Theodore Roosevelt and others, creative New Yorkers opened 1500 new “hotels” and complied with rules linking alcohol to food by serving desiccated sandwiches meant not to be eaten [Darrell Hartman, Atlas Obscura on Raines Law]
- “‘The evidence is very, very strong that there’s a powerful potential health benefit if you can’t get people to quit entirely, to get them to switch from cigarette smoking to vaping,’ Olson said.” [Scott McClallen, Center Square] Here comes Massachusetts to make things worse [Jeffrey Singer]
- If you suppose that transcontinental air travel is worsening the risk of global pandemics, then you may suppose erroneously [Johan Norberg “Dead Wrong” video]
- Zoning will not bring slimness: “Fast-Food Bans Are a Dumb Idea That Won’t Die” [Baylen Linnekin] Having a supermarket enter a food desert has at best a minor effect on healthy eating [Hunt Allcott et al., Quarterly Journal of Economics, earlier]
- The imperialism of public health: wealth inequality, affordable housing declared topics for action by the public health profession [Petrie-Flom]
- “From the 1910s through the 1950s, and in some places into the 1960s and 1970s, tens of thousands — perhaps hundreds of thousands — of American women were detained and forcibly examined for STIs…. If the women tested positive, U.S. officials locked them away in penal institutions with no due process….. During World War II, the American Civil Liberties Union not only failed to oppose the Plan; its founder, Roger Baldwin, sent a memorandum encouraging its local branches to cooperate with officials enforcing it.” [Scott W. Stern, History.com]
- Public health campaign against arsenic-tainted wells in Bangladesh appears to have inadvertently increased child mortality in places where alternative was surface water, which is more likely to carry microbial contamination [Nina Buchmann, Erica M. Field, Rachel Glennerster, & Reshmaan N. Hussam, Cato Research Briefs in Economic Policy No. 180]
“Were there really more than twice as many sessions on global warming as on obsessive compulsive disorder? Three times as many on immigration as on ADHD?” Blogger and medical professional Scott Alexander at the American Psychiatric Association convention: “If you want to model the APA, you could do worse than a giant firehose that takes in pharmaceutical company money at one end, and shoots lectures about social justice out the other.” [Slate Star Codex]
- London ban on transit ads depicting “bad” foods winds up nixing images of Wimbledon strawberries and cream, bacon, butter, cheese, jam, honey, and Christmas pudding [Scott Shackford]
- And more: British medical journal The Lancet wants to do some highly non-consensual poking and jabbing at your midsection, with the aim of making you lose weight; highlights include funding activist campaigns, cutting business out of policy discussions, and routing policy through the least accountable international organizations [Christopher Snowdon, The Spectator; more from Snowdon on state-subsidized anti-food advocacy in Britain; Nina Teicholz]
- Pushing back on the Lancet panel’s guideline that each person be allowed no more than one egg and less than 3.5 ounces of red meat a week [Mark Hemingway]
- “The Problem With Nudging People to Happiness” [Randy Barnett reviews Cass Sunstein’s On Freedom]
- “Pharmaceutical Freedom: Why Patients Have a Right to Self Medicate”, Cato Daily Podcast with Jessica Flanigan and Caleb Brown;
- “Proposed Anti-Soda Bills in California Would Ban Big Gulps, Mandate Warning Labels on Vending Machines” [Christian Britschgi] “Medical Groups Endorse New Taxes and Marketing Restrictions on Soda — For the children, of course” [Baylen Linnekin]
- Sued if you do, sued if you don’t: drugmaker faces lawsuits over failure to provide Fosamax warning that FDA told it not to provide [Jim Copland, James Beck on Merck Sharp & Dohme v. Albrecht, pending at Supreme Court]
- On new APA masculinity guidelines, Sally Satel cuts to the point: will they improve the success of therapy for people seeking help? [Washington Post]
- What does it mean to say the opioid litigation might follow the tobacco model? [Rob McKenna, U.S. Chamber] Citing fate of earlier gun lawsuit filed by city of Bridgeport, state judge dismisses four lawsuits filed by Connecticut cities against opioid industry [Daniel Fisher, Legal NewsLine]
- I do miss the days when leaders of the public health profession focused on communicable diseases like typhus rather than running after Bloomberg grants to promote soda bans [Joel Grover and Amy Corral, NBC Los Angeles]
- Cooking the books on infant mortality: about those Cuban life expectancy stats [David R. Henderson]
- As artificial intelligence begins to make inroads into medical diagnosis, liability issues loom large [Beck, see related linked earlier]
How much risk did that recent “no level of alcohol drinking is safe” study find? For the one-drink-per-day group, “a total of 400,000 bottles of gin [was] associated with one extra health problem.” [David Spiegelhalter via Flowing Data] If one of those bottles should happen to fall, 399,999 bottles of gin on the wall…
Advocates claiming the mantle of public health would like to introduce scary new warnings on foods high in sugar, salt, or fat, and restrict marketing, as by banning the use of cartoon characters. For years they’ve been trying to advance their schemes through the use of international organizations and institutions, but now the United States, or at least its federal government, has begun pushing back. The New York Times doesn’t like that one bit and my latest Cato post examines the difference between what a principled position might look like, and the position the Times actually takes. Excerpt:
Like international organizations, treaty administration bodies tend to draw for guidance on an elite stratum of professional diplomats, conference-goers, NGO and nonprofit specialists, and so forth, most of whom are relatively insulated from any pushback in public opinion. That might be a good reason to minimize the role of transnational panels in governance where not absolutely necessary. It is not a good reason to adopt the Times’s implicit position on lobbying for international standards, which is that it’s fine when done by our side but illegitimate when done by yours.
Related: Good piece on sugar/fat wars, with one proviso: when it’s Stanton Glantz spreading a tale, don’t just call it “University of California” [David Merritt Johns and Gerald M. Oppenheimer, Slate]
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has announced that Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C. will pay $89,000 for failing to accommodate employees “who declined flu vaccinations based on their religious beliefs.” [EEOC press release] Mission had in fact agreed to exempt employees from the flu shot based on religious objections, but required that they declare their intention ahead of time. And that turned out to be not accommodating enough, since not requiring that extent of advance notice would not in the EEOC’s view have posed an undue hardship on the employer — hence the expensive lesson.
At our religious discrimination tag can be found cases of employees who claimed a Title VII religious discrimination right not to serve alcoholic drinks as part of the duties of a flight attendant, not to haul beer as part of a job as a trucker, not to participate in an employer’s hand-scanner system for fear that it was connected to the Biblical “Mark of the Beast,” and to take prayer breaks in groups as large as 11 at an employer that did not think it could spare that many workers off the floor at the same time.
Under federal law enacted in 1972, employers regularly come under legal constraint to grant such accommodations to workers of many different religious sects. Although from much of the current debate one might imagine that liberals were historically skeptical of accommodation requirements, the actual history is more complicated. As I wrote a while back, “Surprisingly or otherwise, the pressure for federal law to become more indulgent toward private employees’ demands for religious accommodation [has] come both from liberal lawmakers like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton and from conservatives like Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal.”
Under the elastic “undue hardship” standard, employers may face much uncertainty as to how much disruption of their business they must put up with in the name of accommodation. The flu-shot example suggests that risks to co-workers, customers, and the general public might sometimes enter the calculus as well — an expensive guessing game at best.
P.S. I’ve got a post at Cato making a related point: is it really libertarians who should catch flak for being too indulgent toward persons who want to be excused from vaccination?
Public Health England “is ‘demanding’ a calorie-cap on supermarket ready meals that would limit breakfasts to 400 calories and lunches and dinners to 600 calories each.” That’s among numerous nanny-state initiatives under way in the United Kingdom, including stringent guidelines on individual drinking and the introduction of a sugary drinks tax. Madsen Pirie, Adam Smith Institute:
It is not really government’s job to make people feel miserable, and it is certainly no business of theirs to legislate what people may or may not eat. The fact that the recommended limits are so low is justified by officials on the grounds that people will always exceed recommendations, so ultra-low ones will make them exceed to tolerable rather than intolerable levels. The problem with this approach is that the ultra-low targets simply discredit the whole process of recommendation. …
There is a very good case for proposing that government should stop doing this altogether. There is plenty of good medical advice that people can read in the press, and most people are aware of the ancient dictum, “Nothing to excess.” Most of us, I suspect, would like to indulge ourselves occasionally without having official bullies making us feel bad about doing so.
- “Survey: Most Docs Sued for Malpractice” [John Commins, Health Leader on Medscape survey] “The Missing Link in Lavern’s Law” (New York) [Peter A. Kolbert and Andrew S. Kaufman, New York Law Journal]
- Prescription spirits: why many physicians prospered so mightily during Prohibition [Paula Mejia, Atlas Obscura]
- Third Circuit greenlights consumer financial injury class action claiming eyedrop container dispenses eyedrops that are too big [Beck and McConnell on Alcon suit; see also earlier Posner on Allergan case]
- AI in health care, spot the legal issues: “For the First Time, a Robot Passed a Medical Licensing Exam” [in China; Dom Galeon, Futurism]
- “Why FDA regulations limiting e-cigarette marketing may cost lives and violate the Constitution” [Jonathan Adler; related, Jacob Sullum, earlier here, etc.] Anti-vaping crusade represents broader scandal of public health [John Tierney, City Journal]
- Off-label prescribing offers a window on a world with much less FDA regulation, and overall it’s an attractive one [Alex Tabarrok]
- “Oral Contraceptives Should be Free (From the Third-Party Trap)” [Jeffrey Singer, Cato]
- Arbitrator awards $17.5 million after hospital fires neurosurgeon: in retaliation, or because he didn’t disclose problems with the law unrelated to practice? [Mike Baker, Seattle Times]
- Idea of empowering government to rewrite recipes for packaged food has gotten more traction in British public health sector than here [Sean Poulter, Daily Mail]
- Encyclopedia time: you can look up a variety of health topics in the now-online Encyclopedia of Libertarianism including Michael Cannon on health care generally, Gene Healy and Bruce Benson on illegal drugs, Jeffrey Schaler on psychiatry. And the Routledge Encyclopedia of Libertarianism includes Jessica Flanigan on libertarianism and medicine;
- If treatment deviating from the standard of care is the standard for malpractice, then some patients in pursuit of unconventional therapy choose it, and the law of waivers and of assumption of risk should respect their autonomy [Nadia Sawicki via TortsProf]
- About the Washington Post’s big opioid-legislation exposé, a few questions [Robert VerBruggen]