Caution: Government warnings can damage your health


Those who hoped for a let-up in the blitz of government warnings that were so prominent at Christmas have been disappointed. Now government agencies try to ride the tide of New Year resolutions, urging behavioural changes upon the population, and giving grim warning of the consequences of not doing so. It has been a boon for the advertising industry and for the media which have benefitted from the bonanza of taxpayer cash funding these campaigns, but there are questions as to whether it achieves any good.

Since stress is regarded as a big killer, exacerbating many other conditions as well as causing its own problems, the wisdom of exposing us all to the stress of this relentless advertising has to be questioned. They want us to treat every meal as a minefield rather than as a source of relaxed pleasure. Is there too much sugar? Too many saturated fats? We are made to feel guilty about eating butter and cream, and made anxious that we might be exceeding our day's quota of salt. And so it goes on. That stress-reducing drink after work now has numbers of alcohol units mentally written upon it for us to fret about, and of course any smokers who want to relax and reduce their stress levels with a cigarette now have to do it in the snow, and feel outcasts as well as guilt-ridden.

Government environmental advertising is adding to stress levels as well. Now we are supposed to fret about ways of traveling five fewer miles a week, or turning thermostats down.

If, as is likely, we have a new government this year, one of its first moves should be to stop all such advertising. Instead of trying to make people feel miserable and guilty, especially at holiday times, it should allow them to relax and enjoy themselves, unbombarded by exhortations to worry about what they are doing. The theme should be lighten up, enjoy life, relax. There's much to enjoy about life, and we don't need killjoys to spoil it, especially those who waste huge quantities of public money in doing so.