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Should we use regulation to demand improved public health outcomes from industry? No

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a1761 (Published 02 October 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1761
  1. Stig Pramming, executive director
  1. 1Oxford Health Alliance, London W1W 8RZ
  1. stig.pramming{at}oxha.org

    Preventable chronic diseases are a major threat to health worldwide. Stephen Sugarman (doi:10.1136/bmj.a1750) argues that setting targets for companies will produce innovative solutions, but Stig Pramming believes collaboration is the best way to improve health

    This debate about regulation of business to improve public health goes back many years. Those who support regulation believe that the pursuit of profit is the only abiding principle of the business world and that companies cannot be trusted to moderate their practices in order to promote the public good. However, this simplistic and outdated view is less and less useful in the 21st century.

    Regulation doesn’t change behaviour

    Arguments about economic systems, motives, and who is to blame for preventable disease are unproductive.1 In the case of smoking, a hugely profitable industry produces and promotes a harmful, addictive, and unnecessary product. However food is not tobacco, and issues of cause and effect just aren’t the same. Obesity is, in a sense, an unintended consequence of progress. Moreover, even if regulation succeeded in forcing businesses to promote better portion control or pedestrianism or healthier …

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