Harm Reduction Not Banning

10 Oct

In the Associated Press article, ” Venezuela’s Chavez on moral crusade”, dated 9 October, it is reported that the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is “preaching against vices from alcohol to cholesterol, vowing to curb whisky imports and ordering beer trucks off the street.”

Plans are made to increase taxes on cigarettes and a range of alcoholic beverages while restrictions are placed on granting dollars to companies importing liquor, especially whisky.

The article also stated that the leader of the country has a list of recommendations:

“don’t douse foods with too much hot sauce, exercise regularly, eat low-cholesterol foods, respect speed limits. He also wants parents to stop buying Barbie dolls — and breast jobs — for their daughters.”

These measures and calls are a reaction towards the onslaught and attack of “Fast Food Americanisation”.

It remains to be seen if people will be terribly upset at some of these measures.

In the article, one of the interviewers claims that these recommendations are “socialist”, which is certainly untrue. Socialism is a political and social ideology which is not primarily concerned with lifestyle choices and consumer behaviour.

It is certainly up to a government on deciding how much they want to tax cigarettes or alcohol. It is also hard to dispute that cigarettes and alcohol are not harmful to the body.

However that does not mean that any government has a right to ban these products. As for regulating its supply and demand, governments should also be wary about taxing or increasing the prices of these products to control its demand and supply. After all, increasing the prices of these products can drive it further underground and onto the black market, making it harder to assess how pervasive these products are being used.

Instead of demonizing such products or solely using economics to regulate demand and supply of cigarettes or alcohol, a harm reduction method focusing heavily on education might prove to be more beneficial. These harm reduction methods should also be expanded to include illicit drugs.

Prohibition rarely works as history has shown and it should not be used.

A much more mature way for society and its government to deal with licit and illicit drugs is to allow people to have access to unbiased information them.

According to a British study by the Lancet magazine in March 2007, Professor David Nutt of Britain’s Bristol University and his colleagues recommended that a new framework should be adopted for the classification of harmful substances, based on the actual risks posed to society.

The researchers puts two groups of experts psychiatrists specializing in addiction and legal or police officials with scientific or medical expertise to assign scores to different types of drugs and found surprises in their results.

The findings revealed that legal drugs such as alcohol and cigarettes are actually more harmful than other drugs such as Cannabis or Ecstasy.

Read more about this research from the BBC article, “Scientists want new drug rankings”.

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