Last Friday, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s first report on health hazards of cigarette smoking, his office released a report linking smoking to several new chronic diseases. In addition to the previously-known lung and oral cancer, high blood pressure, and heart disease, the new diseases include diabetes, erectile dysfunction, cancer of the colon and liver, and stroke.
The parallels between cigarette smoking and meat consumption are uncanny:
* The chronic diseases linked to both activities and the associated costs of medical care and lost productivity are comparable
* The first government reports warning consumers about health hazards of cigarette smoking and meat consumption were issued in 1964 (by Surgeon General) and in 1977 (by Senate Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs), respectively
* The first warning labels on cigarette and meat packaging were required in 1966 and 1994, respectively
* Both activities are discouraged by health advocates and both are declining
But there is one important difference: the meat industry impacts more state economies with a stronger congressional clout than the tobacco industry. Consequently, a Surgeon General’s report on the hazards of meat consumption is most unlikely.
Our health remains our personal responsibility.