I got some great comments on this morning's post. You folks have recapitulated the key debates here: paternalism, comparisons with alcohol and illicit drugs, the danger of a black market, regressivity.
One of the commenters asked about tobacco. Cato the elder ended every speech with the admonition: “And Carthage must be destroyed!” Nothing against Carthage, but Cato was right never to let anyone to forget his simple message. Anyone blogging about public health must do the same....
I spent yesterday at Cook County Jail, a behemoth complex of buildings the size of a small neighborhood on Chicago’s west side. During a glacial wait for some Xerox copies, I stared out the window at the sidewalks marked off by high fences and ugly concertina wire. Young moms, kids in tow, tentatively pushed baby strollers along this maze of concrete walkways leading to the visiting area. Out of sight, out of mind, prisoners are a population we readily ignore when the cable TV shows are off. Yet these men and women are absolutely central to public health.
I published a piece in the New Republic today examining America’s failures in HIV prevention.
AIDS has already killed more Americans than the combined total of combat deaths in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Despite treatment advances, the deaths keep coming. In 2006, the most recent year with good records, we lost 14,627 of our fellow citizens to this terrible disease. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if our government, our most heavily affected communities, and our entire society had mobilized more quickly and more effectively.