Read­ers’ re­ac­tion to self-in­flicted dis­ease

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - HEALTH - Dr. Gif­ford Jones Dr. W. Gif­ford-Jones is a syn­di­cated colum­nist whose med­i­cal col­umn ap­pears in The Guardian ev­ery Tues­day. Check out his web­site,, which pro­vides easy ac­cess to past col­umns and med­i­cal tips. For com­ments, read­ers are

Re­cently I asked read­ers to re­spond to the col­umn, “Want to be a Mil­lion­aire?”

I re­ceived a ton of mail. A Que­bec judge had ruled that smok­ers could be re­warded for ill health and death even though they knew smok­ing had been a health haz­ard for 50 years. So I pro­posed get­ting rich sim­i­larly by start­ing a class ac­tion suit against food com­pa­nies for cre­at­ing the per­fect storm of obe­sity, Type 2 di­a­betes, and heart dis­ease. Af­ter all, this is a mon­u­men­tal cri­sis com­pared to smok­ing.

L.P. from West Kelowna, B.C., writes, “I to­tally agree with your ev­ery word. These poor saps didn’t know that to­bacco was harm­ful to their health? What a so­ci­ety we live in. The next thing these poor ba­bies will be su­ing Mac­Don­ald’s, Burger King and other food chains for mak­ing them fat by forc­ing them to eat all those un­healthy burgers and fries.”

D.T. from Leam­ing­ton, Ont., says, “Thanks for the col­umn re­gard­ing the ridicu­lous il­log­i­cal law­suit in Que­bec. I fully agree that peo­ple, as well as gov­ern­ments, should not be al­lowed to sue a com­pany as a re­sult of illinformed choices they made. You are right. It could be the start of a slip­pery slope.”

He adds, “Ev­ery­one com­plains about the bil­lions spent on med­i­cal treat­ments for peo­ple who smoke. How­ever, since smok­ers die an av­er­age 10 years sooner than those choos­ing a healthy lifestyle there is a sig­nif­i­cant cost sav­ing in pen­sion pay­outs.” (Prof. Richard Peto at Ox­ford re­ported on a large study sev­eral years ago prov­ing that smok­ers died 20 years sooner).

J.W. from Wind­sor, Ont., writes, “I feel your logic is open to ques­tion. Food com­pa­nies have for many years openly printed on each pack­age, can or con­tainer, the in­gre­di­ents listed therein. Al­beit, they had to be leg­is­lated to do it. Cig­a­rette com­pa­nies on the other hand, to my knowl­edge, did not do so. “

Another reader re­marks, “Your ar­ti­cle made my heart sing. We live in this lit­i­ga­tion-rid­dled so­ci­ety where peo­ple can’t or won’t take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their own ac­tions. Ev­ery time I see a smoker light up, I cringe and think of the cost to me and so­ci­ety. Thanks for a well writ­ten ar­ti­cle. I think there are mil­lions of folks who agree, but are afraid to stand up and be counted.”

O.P. from Saska­toon says, “Thanks for the col­umn. You nailed it. I agree 100 per cent and wish more peo­ple would say it.”

B.M. re­marks, “I was glad to read your col­umn about self-in­flicted health is­sues. In par­tic­u­lar, you echoed sen­ti­ments I have ex­pressed about to­bacco. When Prince Ed­ward Is­land joined sev­eral other prov­inces in su­ing to­bacco com­pa­nies for in­cur­ring health costs I pointed out to­bacco was le­gal and the gov­ern­ment re­ceives tax rev­enue. So how can the province hope to ob­tain money from to­bacco com­pa­nies for a prod­uct whose pro­duc­tion and sale they abet? Of course the same could be said about al­co­hol”.

LG from Leth­bridge, Alta.,” You were right on this week and for years I’ve en­joyed the fact that you never sit-on-the-fence in deal­ing with con­tro­ver­sial is­sue. My ac­co­lades for en­light­en­ing the public. Keep up the good work.”

The gen­eral re­ac­tion from read­ers was that we are reach­ing a turn­ing point in so­ci­ety where “Big Brother” can no longer look af­ter us for foolish be­hav­iour. And that our health care sys­tem, as we know it, will go down the drain un­less we ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for our own health.

Im­prov­ing lifestyle is re­ally not that com­pli­cated. It all boils down to com­mon sense. Un­for­tu­nately, in 2015, com­mon sense has be­come an un­com­mon com­mod­ity.

This de­ci­sion by an ed­u­cated judge to re­ward peo­ple for do­ing things they darn well know are harm­ful to their health is just another ex­am­ple of old-fash­ioned horse sense gone broke.

Many years ago I wrote in this col­umn that “The prob­lems of our so­ci­ety are gen­er­ated by sup­pos­edly in­tel­li­gent peo­ple who are largely fools”. In the in­terim I have not changed my mind.

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