When you buy cigarettes and junk food, you wind up paying twice: once for the goods, and once again for the health problems the companies create but don't help fix.
I've been at meetings in London and Geneva on non-communicable (what we call chronic) diseases and how to prevent them.
On the way to Europe, I did some catching up on reading past issues of The Lancet and ran across this letter from Sally Casswell of the School of Public Health at Massey University in Auckland.
Professor Casswell was responding to an article arguing that a major priority in chronic disease prevention should be to strengthen the capacity of countries to deliver primary care services.
Yes, professor Casswell writes, primary care is important. But it is even more important to focus prevention efforts on the environmental factors that influence the behavior of individuals and cause them to need primary care services in the first place.
Do we really want to continue to live in a world where the oversupply and marketing of tobacco, alcohol, unhealthy processed foods, and soft drinks is tolerated simply to allow continuing profits for the shareholders of the transnational corporations producing and distributing them, while the taxpayer funds the health services and pharmaceutical response to the ensuing disease and injury?
This is a refreshing way to look at this problem, and one well worth pondering.
This post originally appeared on Food Politics, an Atlantic partner site.