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Montevideo, May 21st 2019 - 18:51 UTC

“Eat, smoke, drink and be merry” recommends Norwegian health minister

Wednesday, May 8th 2019 - 08:25 UTC
Full article 13 comments
Sylvi Listhaug said smokers were made to feel like pariahs. A populist politician with anti-immigration views, she was appointed as new health minister on Friday Sylvi Listhaug said smokers were made to feel like pariahs. A populist politician with anti-immigration views, she was appointed as new health minister on Friday
“My starting point for this with public health is very simple. I do not plan to be the moral police, and will not tell people how to live their lives” “My starting point for this with public health is very simple. I do not plan to be the moral police, and will not tell people how to live their lives”

Norway's newly appointed health minister has caused controversy by saying people should be allowed to eat, smoke and drink “as much as they want”. Sylvi Listhaug also said smokers were made to feel like pariahs.

A populist politician with anti-immigration views, she was appointed as the new health minister on Friday, a year after being forced to quit over a security row.

Critics say she has little understanding of what public health is.

“My starting point for this with public health is very simple. I do not plan to be the moral police, and will not tell people how to live their lives, but I intend to help people get information that forms the basis for making choices,” she told Norwegian broadcaster NRK in an interview on Monday.

“People should be allowed to smoke, drink and eat as much red meat as much as they want. The authorities may like to inform, but people know pretty much what is healthy and what is not healthy, I think.”

Smokers were made to feel like pariahs, Ms Listhaug, herself a former smoker, added.

“I think many smokers feel like pariahs. So they almost feel they have to hide away, and I think that's stupid. Although smoking is not good, because it is harmful, adults have to decide for themselves what they do.

”The only thing we as governments are to do is to provide information so that people can make informed choices. That is why we should, among other things, [devise] a tobacco strategy now, which will help prevent young people from starting to smoke and often want to make more adults quit.“

Ms Listhaug says she only smokes rarely now, mainly on social occasions.

Norway's Cancer Society's secretary general said Ms Listhaug's comments were potentially harmful to public health.

”Many will adhere to what she says. That is to say, public health [has been] set back many decades,“ Anne Lise Ryel told NRK.

Ms Listhaug, whose right-wing Progress Party is part of the four-member coalition government headed by the Conservative Party, is no stranger to controversy.

Last year, she was forced to resign after accusing the Labour and the Christian Democrats parties of putting ”terrorists' rights” before national security after they helped defeat a bill that would have given the state the right to strip individuals of Norwegian citizenship if they were suspected of terrorism or of joining foreign militant groups.

The Christian Democrats, who were not in the cabinet at the time, threatened to bring down the government unless she quit. In 2016, she was ridiculed for jumping off a rescue boat into the Mediterranean to see what it is like to be a refugee.

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  • DemonTree

    As long as they tax tobacco enough to pay for the healthcare costs, it's their funeral... literally.

    And the real problem with food is policies like the CAP that subsidise unhealthy stuff instead of fruits and vegetables.

    But this is much worse if it's accurate:

    “a bill that would have given the state the right to strip individuals of Norwegian citizenship if they were suspected of terrorism or of joining foreign militant groups.”

    Besides the question of whether it's right to strip citizenship or not, they want to punish people just on suspicion of committing a crime? Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

    May 08th, 2019 - 09:50 am 0
  • DemonTree

    I don't know where you got that number from, but not every smoker develops cancer and if it's caught early they might not even need inpatient treatment. According to this, the tobacco tax take in the UK far exceeds the amount spent by the NHS treating smokers, but adding in lost productivity means the cost to the country is probably higher.

    https://fullfact.org/economy/does-smoking-cost-much-it-makes-treasury/

    Norway surely spends proportionally more on treatment, but it can't be that different.

    Anyway, supposing taxes did cover the cost, do you think it's the government's job to stop people doing risky/harmful things? I'm unsure.

    May 08th, 2019 - 02:47 pm 0
  • DemonTree

    And your back of the envelope calculation, missing out most of the factors, was good enough for you.

    In any case, I wrote “AS LONG AS they tax tobacco enough,” I didn't claim they're currently doing so. If you think the government should be discouraging smoking as much as possible or banning it, even if it's good for the treasury, that's a different argument. DO you think so?

    PS. I never voted for your turnip, or anyone like her. That was your fellow Norwegians...

    May 08th, 2019 - 03:57 pm 0
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