"the “domino theory” i.e. that once a measure has been applied to tobacco it will be applied to other products is patently false."
Barely a day passes without some anti-alcohol or anti-lemonade zealot paying homage to the anti-smoking crusade as they walk down the furrow ploughed by tobacco control, and yet the likes of Arnott still defiantly—some would say dishonestly—insist that there is no slippery slope.
As I mentioned last week, talk Down Under has turned to full-on prohibition but even that is not enough to make the champions of non-smoking sections on aeroplanes admit that we have been sold a lemon.
Interviewed on that very subject, protester-turned-quackademic Simon Fenton Chapman said:
Look, if the slope is slippery, it's the most unslippery slippery dip I've ever seen in my life. We started banning tobacco advertising in 1976 and there has been no other commodity where there has been anything like a serious move to do what we've done with tobacco. And that's because there are great big differences between tobacco and all other commodities.
So, you know, the comparisons with hamburgers and chocolate bars and alcohol and such with like that, they're just really don't stack up.
Presumably Chapman has never heard of the Australian government's own Preventative Health Taskforce, which has, since 2009, been calling for...
Advertising bans on junk food and alcohol
Arguments used to avoid, delay, and dilute health warnings
Within the four strategies outlined above, the industry has used six main arguments to oppose the introduction and strengthening of warnings:
- tobacco warnings are the start of a “slippery slope”
Elaborating on the first of those six arguments, Chapman wrote:
In pre-warning days, when arguments could be couched in incredulity that tobacco should be singled out from other consumer products, the industry used “slippery slope” or “thin edge of the wedge” rhetoric, arguing that the policy would inexorably bleed into other product areas.
“The precedent is one which could easily come to affect other industries. For instance, a number of medical scientists claim that butter and milk are dangerous to the health of some people. It is recognised that drinking too much liquor or reckless driving are hazards to life... can we expect all these products to carry a ‘danger’ label ...?”
This argument appears to have quickly lost momentum when the dire predictions of rampant warnings never materialised.
No danger of alcohol being given a "danger label" under Chapman's watch, then. Why, that's crazy tobacco industry "thin end of the wedge" rhetoric! So we should definitely ignore the sounds coming from the Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies this month:
"DEMON drink" is the new health battle-ground, with higher taxes, drinking ages and graphic warnings similar to those on tobacco products touted as ways to fight alcohol-related birth defects and other issues.
But perhaps we should not condemn Chapman for the sins of others. He can't help it if a few of his 'public health' colleagues speak out of turn and he was still on diplomatically defensive form when he spoke to the Guardian earlier this year. On that occasion he was insistent that his latest ruse—plain packaging—would definitely not be the start of another slippery slope:
He derides any idea of plain packaging for alcohol, because it would antagonise people unnecessarily...
He "derides" it, you will note, not because he thinks it is wrong, illiberal, authoritarian or excessive, but because it would be politically unacceptable in the current environment. A little more softening-up required before the public will fall for that one, I fancy.
There is, however, less softening-up required to push some of his other erstwhile "unique-to-tobacco" policies down the slope...
...but backs restricted opening times for pubs and clubs, graphic warnings on labels and tougher controls on licensing.
Didn't take long, did it? Graphic warnings were first used on cigarette packs in Australia in 2006 and then, as now, we were told that there was no slippery slope that would lead to other products (eg. alcohol) getting the same treatment. If six years is considered a reasonable interlude, we can expect the sociopathic sociologist to be calling for plain packaged alcohol in 2018. The way things are going, it could well be sooner.
Here's a guy who squeals in indignation at the suggestion that his latest anti-smoking ruse will be rolled out to other products while simultaneously calling for his last anti-smoking ruse to be rolled out to other products. What kind of collective amnesia is the media suffering from to take such a fellow at face value?
Meanwhile, the news that Tasmania is contemplating Simple Si's next-but-one anti-smoking ruse of total prohibition had him rushing to Google to find any sliver of evidence to show that prohibition could be anything other than the fiasco...
Of course you're not supporting prohibition, Simon. Perish the thought. That would be a "myth", just like the slippery slope.
You can watch Chapman defending Prohibition on Australian TV here. James Patterson of the IPA makes the counter-argument. After five minutes, Chapman realises he's losing the argument and so does the usual trick of playing the man instead of the ball. Viva academia!