Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fat Tax

Happiness is priceless, and so is good health.

Recently I was running with someone who told me about his family history of cancer. Because of his high risk status, he had his first colonoscopy at age 40. Everything was okay so he ignored the doctor's advice to repeat it in 5 years. After one of his friends died from colon cancer as a result of it being detected too late, he went for another colonoscopy. That time, the gastroenterologist found several pre-cancerous polyps and removed them. He gets regular colonscopies now and is aware of just how risky it would be to miss one.

No matter how healthy we try to be, no one is immune to cancer. Or if anyone is, we don't know about it and haven't figured out what genetic mechanism gives them immunity. There are a lot of things we can do to prevent cancer, or detect it before it becomes invasive.

All around us there are bad influences on our behavior. Advertising is a huge influence. Back in the days when cigarette smoking was glamorized, and there were no warning labels or high taxes on tobacco products, a higher proportion of people smoked.

I'm going to preface the remainder of this post with this warning: The Surgeon General has determined that reading this post will make people with a certain political philosophy apoplectic. Not a political party, but specifically, the anti-tax, anti-government mindset. Not naming names here, because it's not fair to generalize. But you individuals know who you are. You speak Palinese. (Sorry, let that slip out, I must have eaten too many beans last night)

You hear the word "tax" or "government", and you poop your pants. So if you're that much of a "Red" blooded American, take your Xanax now, put your diaper on, pop that mask on and crank up the oxygen, and strap yourself into the autopulse, 'cause you're gonna need it if you keep reading. I can think of a certain politician running a losing campaign for the Republican nomination who would have ear steam launching his big fat head up into space by the end of this post.

I get mad when I see people do stupid things that affect large numbers of people in a bad way. I've tried to stay away from politics but I also want to eradicate apathy. Running, any type of exercise, as well as health promotion, is political in our current state of obeseification. People need fresh air and aerobic activity, pumping blood with oxygen through your body helps your brain, heart, lungs, muscles, and every cell in your body.

If we don't start controlling advertising and marketing of all this bad stuff, young people are going to start out their adult lives with chronic diseases that will reduce their quality of life and years of healthy living. Not to mention making health care costs unmanageable.

I think we need more warning labels and fat taxes. I think we should tax television and bad food, to start. Electronic gadgets and TVs should come with a warning label: Too many hours of sitting on your butt watching this object can lead to obesity and premature death. Cell phones should come with a warning label: Use of this object can lead to sore neck muscles, obesity, motor vehicle accidents, traumatic injuries and premature death. Soda and snack foods: Too much intake of this product can lead to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature death. Schools without physical education: The Surgeon General has determined that attendance at this school may cause obesity, diabetes, and early cardiovascular disease.

I don't watch television, but I catch snippets of it while I'm working, usually as I'm flushing someone's PICC line at work, they have the little TVs on while they sit and get their infusions. The advertisements for cars, especially big 4 wheel drive pickups, always show people driving a little too aggressively, just a bit too fast. So people think that is how they are supposed to drive on the streets, and through neighborhoods where the speed limit is 25 mph and there are young kids who play outside. Add a cell phone to that and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

I happen to love the idea of taxes to discourage people from spending money on things that are bad for them and drive health care costs upward. Cigarette taxes are great. But we should tax bad food at the same rate. You know the CEO of Nabisco or Kraft Foods doesn't have to lay out nearly as high a percentage of his or her income on health care as the average working person does. They are raking in the bucks from unregulated gluttony.

Every time you take a bite of those chocolate covered Oreo cookies or Ritz crackers, you are not only buying someone's next vacation home, you're also reserving yourself a future place in the dialysis unit, cardiac cath lab, or chemotherapy chair. And when health care costs and insurance premiums rise because of higher rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, the average working person feels it a lot more. Fat is metabolically active tissue, it produces hormones like estrogen that can promote cancer growth. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 are cancer promoters. Sugar causes us to release insulin. Obesity and metabolic syndrome can lead to insulin resistance, resulting in high levels of insulin in the blood.

And guess what? The CEOs of drug companies will be all too happy to take your money on the far end, too. And if they don't make enough profit off the drug you need, they might just stop making it (e.g. the current methotrexate shortage for treating leukemia in children, who didn't even have enough time to develop bad habits that contribute to cancer development over a lifetime). You don't think that's important? Go see Gab. I wonder what would happen if the drug company executives' children had cancer.

I don't know if my readers are aware, but there are quite a few serious drug shortages going on right now, for various reasons (e.g. "manufacturing and quality concerns") but mostly they seem to be coming down to greed. If the drug companies would invest instead of cutting back in these areas, there wouldn't be an issue.

Government regulation does help to prevent bad behavors from being promoted. People need real food and real exercise. People don't know about the benefits unless they are taught. Government is great at health promotion and education efforts. Efforts to prevent taxes and warning labels, and actions that strangle government across the board end up promoting greed. Greed is just another cancer, but it grows on our way of life. Look at the mess we're in, tell me that has nothing to do with greed.

Sounds like a job for a new government agency? The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Greed. Might want to get the U.N. involved, too.

Greed is a crime against humanity.

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