Sugary drinks will no longer be sold at vending machines in any of New South Wales' health facilities under new nanny state rules set to hit you where it hurts – your freedom of choice.
The move is part of the state government's 5% reduction target in adult obesity rates by 2020 and seemingly ignores Australian Health Survey data confirming that most Aussies see these drinks as an occasional treat which accounts for barely 2% of our average kilojoule intake. Because draconian public health nannies understand that being seen as 'tough' is more important than finding solutions that actually work and far more important than treating patients and staff like adults free to make their own choices.
This isn't the first time that do-gooders funded by our taxes have concocted hare-brained schemes. A proposed 'sugar tax' aimed at household budgets across the country has gained some traction with proponents including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver arguing that the tax is necessary to ensure that the plebians make healthy choices. Fortunately both sides of politics have declined to support the move, recognising that it would hurt the poorest households and families the most.
Nurses, doctors and others in our health sector work long, stressful and arduous hours. Patients and visitors also deal with a scary environment, with many facing stress and monotony over nights spent in wards awaiting an uncertain future - some knowing that the next day could well be their last. With a pint or smoke completely out of the question, vending machines dispensing comfort food and drink provide one of the only vices for the multitude of individuals who find themselves in our health facilities.
I'm sure that the expectant dad waiting hours for his wife to come out of labour or the daughter sitting through sleepless nights while her father undergoes surgery will be thankful that the state health department cares enough to protect them from the temptation of a cold cola that could make their time a little more bearable.
The science is clear. Obesity is simply the result of consuming more calories than your body burns or needs - either because of a consistently poor diet, sedentary lifestyle or both. Other factors including genetics and your environment play a role too. Our society is well educated on the health effects of sugary drinks and the need for consumption in moderation.
Stopping people from having the occasional can is not only preachy and patronising - it will do nothing to combat obesity. It will only stoke the egos of those who get their kicks from telling us what we can and can't do until society fits their ideal image so they can claim the credit.
Which is why they'll keep cracking open ideas like this until they fizzle out.
Satya Marar is Director of Policy at the Australian Taxpayers' Alliance
[This article first appeared in Online Opinion]