Day: July 14, 2021

Opinion: Learn from Britain — a junk food ad ban is a bad idea

The outdated playbook of trying to tax and ban things out of existence in a misguided effort to change people’s behaviour

Childhood obesity rates have nearly tripled in the last 30 years. Almost one in three Canadian children is overweight or obese, according to data from Statistics Canada. In an effort to tackle this growing problem, Health Canada has announced it is considering sweeping new legislation to restrict junk food advertising.

A similar plan was mooted but not adopted a few years back, but public health regulators now feel empowered to push this tired idea partly because the British government recently signed off on a new law banning television advertisements before nine in the evening for foods high in sugar. Health Canada says it is examining the British law and recommitting to implementing something similar in Canada.

The months the British government has spent dancing around this issue ought to be enough to ward off any right-thinking Canadian. The law it eventually came up with was a watered-down version of the original proposal, which would have banned all online advertising of anything the government considered “junk food.” Bakeries could have been committing a crime by posting pictures of cakes to Instagram.

The U.K. government now promises its new legislation will eliminate that possibility. But that doesn’t mean the ban is a useful public policy tool. First and foremost, ad bans simply do not work. The British government’s own analysis of its policy predicts it will remove a grand total of 1.7 calories from kids’ diets per day. That’s roughly the equivalent of 1/30th of an Oreo cookie.

It’s safe to assume the same policy would have similarly underwhelming results here in Canada. It won’t help reduce child obesity but it will make life more complicated for the country’s food industry. All this, just as the world enters a post-COVID economic recovery and countries like Britain and Canada need growth and investment more than ever.

The junk food ad ban was pushed through in the U.K. on the back of a sinister campaign weaponizing children’s voices. As the government wrapped up its public consultation on the proposal, it lauded a conveniently timed report supposedly highlighting the crying need for such a drastic policy intervention. The report — or “exposé,”’ as it was branded — was cooked up by Biteback 2030, a pressure group fronted by celebrity chefs and Dolce & Gabbana models. Absent hard evidence or coherent arguments for the centralization of decision-making on a matter as fundamental as what to have for dinner, it made its point by shamelessly putting interventionist politics into children’s mouths.

“I’m a 16-year-old boy,” read its introduction. “I feel like I’m being bombarded with junk food ads on my phone and on my computer. And I’m pretty sure this is getting worse.” Canadians who value free markets and individual liberties should be on the lookout for similar tactics from nanny-statists bent on drowning entire industries in red tape and consigning any notion of freedom of choice to the history books. It is incredibly paternalistic for the government to limit what advertisements adult consumers can see, as the ban would eliminate the targeted ads from all TV programming before nine p.m.

There is plenty Canada can do to fight obesity without resorting to blanket advertising bans, following the outdated playbook of trying to tax and ban things out of existence in a misguided effort to change people’s behaviour. The ban completely ignores the other half of the obesity equation, which is of course physical activity.

Obesity is a serious problem. It could even become the next pandemic. But as this junk food ad ban statement from Health Canada shows, powerful public health regulators are asleep at the wheel. They claim to be acting in Canadians’ best interest but they have nothing new to add to the policy debate.

Originally published here.

Dental Insurance Is the Next Industry That Badly Needs Reform

In the last decade, most debate and discussion on reforms related to healthcare have focused on Americans’ general health insurance plans and costs. And for good reason.

And though our health system is convoluted and complicated, it gets even more complex when we examine what is happening with dental care.

The intersection of hefty insurance premiums, confusing government benefits, and a red tape bonanza keep many Americans from ever visiting a dentist’s office.

Even though 80 percent of Americans have access to dental benefits, nearly 35 percent of American adults didn’t visit a dentist in 2019, according to the National Association of Dental Plans.

The reason so many neglect getting their teeth checked is clear in the data: the mounting cost.

And modern dental insurance, coupled with a myriad of various government programs, is a big reason for that.

Unlike most healthcare plans, dental plans have low caps on the number of benefits they will pay out, anywhere between $1,000-$1,500 a year. Premiums average $30-$50 per month depending on the plan and the number of people covered.

Because patients use dental insurance to cover all aspects of their care, rather than emergencies, this adds to an inflation of the price of rudimentary care, a phenomenon dubbed the “social consequences problem” by economists.

That problem gets even more complicated considering that nearly all dental patients don’t choose their plans themselves.

At present, 93 percent of privately insured dental patients receive coverage from their employers, meaning there is little incentive to innovate direct-to-consumer options that would offer competition.

This incentive problem, along with a relatively opaque dental insurance market, means costs will continue to riseunless we can agree on simple reforms to increase competition and transparency in the dental insurance market.

To do so, state legislatures and Congress should first look to encourage patients who choose membership programs as dental plans, rather than traditional insurance. Using Health Savings Accounts to buy these memberships, as well as pay for care, would be a huge improvement that would empower patients to contract their own care.

This would be similar to the movement of direct primary care doctors, who offer direct monthly subscriptions to patients and don’t accept insurance. Removing the insurance middleman means less bureaucracy, less red tape, and more time with patients. As a plus, prices are transparent and fair. That alone would provide better competition and prices for patients in need.

This would lead to a larger decoupling of health and dental insurance from employers, allowing patients and consumers to choose the plan that works best for them and their families.

On the note of transparency, state legislatures should hold the dental insurance industry accountable with simple reforms that empower patients when choosing their dentists.

Assignment of benefits laws, already passed in states like Colorado and Illinois, allow patients to choose whether they want insurance companies to directly pay dental clinics, freeing patients from having to pay upfront and negotiate with insurance companies for reimbursement.

Similarly, network leasing regulations, allowing dental clinics to revise and opt-in to insurance networks rather than being automatically forced into them, would keep prices low and transparent, not to mention predictable before you even step into the dentist’s chair.

As legislatures look to reform healthcare, we should also keep in mind the growing dental bills facing Americans every day, and hope lawmakers understand the need for more competition and transparency to better improve dental care in our country.

Encouraging competition to traditional dental insurance, while promoting simple regulations to promote financial transparency, will serve to empower consumers and lower the costs of care.

That would be bold and revolutionary for patients and would help encourage innovation in a sector where it has not always been the most welcome.

Originally published here.

Health Canada coughs up counterintuitive vape policy

Ban on flavoured vape juice, nicotine limits will push smokers back to cigarettes

Just when it was thought to be safe to vape rather than smoke cigarettes, the Trudeau Liberals are unwittingly conspiring to resurrect the age-old sin of cigarette smoking.

They don’t think this will happen of course, but it will

On July 19, as per the federal Gazette, the Liberals of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will announce new regulations to not only reduce the nicotine level in e-cigarette vaping products but ban flavoured vape liquids beyond tobacco and menthol/mint.

“Health Canada is pushing smokers back to smoking cigarettes and into the arms of ‘Big Tobacco’,” says Shai Bekman, president of DashVapes Inc., Canada’s largest independently owned e-cigarette company.

Ontario’s pre-emptive move to ban vape flavours will affect the big-name e-cigarette brands that sell primarily in convenience stores, such as Juul and Vype.

Both companies sell e-cigarette pods that come in flavours such as cucumber, mango, strawberry, and vanilla.

But what is Health Canada thinking?

According to various experts in sociological behaviour, and confirmed in many peer-reviewed articles, rather than reduce smoking, this will eventually drive vapers back to real cigarettes and, because of the severe 70-plus per cent tax on smokes, will also cause increased demand for contraband cigarettes.

After all, if you’re going to smoke, why pay a heavily taxed $20 a pack when a trip to the friendly smoke shack on any Mohawk reserve in Ontario and Quebec will get you a tax-free pack for as little as $4?

As David Clement, North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Centre recently wrote in the Financial Post, “our federal government is ignoring what is working abroad and is rejecting its usual governing principle of harm reduction.

“Curbing youth access to vape products is very important but banning flavours for adult smokers trying to quit tobacco is a huge mistake, one that could have deadly consequences,” said Clement.

“Approximately 1.5 million Canadians use vape products, most of them smokers trying to quit. Research on consumer purchasing patterns shows that 650,000 of those vape users currently rely on flavours that would be prohibited if the ban goes through.”

In May, also in the Financial Post, Fred O’Riordan, a former director-general at Revenue Canada, said “ the federal budget had something for everyone, including contraband traders.

“Their unexpected gift came in the form of a $4 per carton increase in excise duties on legally manufactured cigarettes, a sharp increase that may mark the end of one era — in which tax policy was an effective tool to control tobacco use — and the beginning of another.

”More smokers will switch to readily available and far cheaper contraband products,” he wrote.

“(This) will be bad for the health side of policy, especially for young people since illegal sellers do not ask for proof-of-age ID.”

The purpose of tobacco taxes, of course, is to raise revenues, but projections have been falling for years.

Last November, the Canada Revenue Agency estimated the 2014 loss in federal excise duty revenue from illegal cigarettes — the so-called “tax gap” — at about $483 million.

Lost provincial tax revenues would more than double that estimate. And those “latest” numbers are seven years old.

What’s needed is the ballsy move of reducing tobacco taxes enough to make buying contraband a non-thought. Ontario Premier Mike Harris did this and sin-tax tobacco revenues predictably went up.

And keep flavoured vapes — the mango, the vanilla and even the bubble-gum, all of which are also sold on reserves.

Health Canada has to stop being so counterintuitive.

It’s not working.

Originally published here.

Jacksonville Vette included in National Corvette Day poster

The Corvette is celebrating its 68th anniversary this year. with eight generations produced since the first C1 model premiered on June 30, 1953. So it’s no surprise that June 30 was officially designated “National Corvette Day” by Congress back in 2008. So the Hagerty Drivers Foundation celebrated that anniversary this year with a poster showing all eight generations.

The collection includes a Jacksonville family’s white C7 Corvette in the lower left. And its photo, plus the sunny image of the Polo White 1953 C1 in the upper left, were taken by local photographer Nick Williams.

The Corvette was born out of the fertile mind of GM Chief Designer Harley J. Earl in the early 1950s, dreaming of an American sports car, yet inspired by the great European sports cars of the time. In 1953, Earl introduced the Corvette as his latest “dream car” at GM’s Motorama show in New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel grand ballroom, and it was a hit. The fiberglass body C1 roadster appeared the next year, the first 300 built in Flint. But for the past 30 years, the mid-engine C8 is built in Bowling Green, Ky.

Originally a Chrysler air-conditioning unit factory, the facility was completely refurbished into a modern automotive facility. Since then, the facility has doubled in size, and Bowling Green has remained the exclusive home of the Corvette for over 30 years.

MINI unveils EV van

MINI has unveiled a real Vision Urbanaut concept car, six months after it showed off the design as a “virtual vision,” so people can “engage more extensively with the spatial concept and sustainable materials at work,” it said. Premiered July 1 at the DLD Summer conference in Munich, the all-electric people mover is a sleek rounded box with a lounge-like cabin that can be configured to fit the passengers it’s carrying,. And MINI has also created three profiles called Chill, Wanderlust, and Vibe, allowing the exterior and interior to change to “reflect the MINI moment at hand,” it says.

That includes fragrance, sound and ambient lighting. For example, Chill makes the interior into a kind of retreat to relax or work with full concentration. There’s a glass roof, small inside table and front seats that rotate so occupants can join the chat. And the Wanderlust mode allows the Urbanaut to be driven, a tap on a MINI logo unfolds the steering wheel and pedals from a cushioned front shelf.

Caffeine and Octane is here

The new Caffeine and Octane Jacksonville premieres at 8 a.m. Saturday at The Avenues mall at 10300 Southside Blvd. And organizers have issued a map to show where some of the expected hundreds of classics, sports cars and exotics can show off until 11 a.m. at the revived mega-cruise in on the east side of the mall.

As the map shows, vehicles in the Central Lot (red) must remain in place until 11 a.m., so do not park there if you are not able to stay, 11am. Exhibit Lots (blue on map), Exotics Lot and the Porsche Corner (far right) allow participant vehicles to come and go throughout the event, although cruising is not allowed for safety reasons. The Exhibit Lots are also the best option for clubs and large same make/model groups. This event will also celebrate local and national military vehicles with a dedicated parking and display area.

The city’s biggest local cruise-in was renamed Caffeine and Octane Jacksonville after joining forces with the integrated brand behind North America’s largest monthly car show in Dunwoody, Ga., and the “Caffeine and Octane” television show on the NBC Sports Network. The event returns at the same times on Saturday Aug. 14 and Sept. 11, with more to come through the year.

Poll shows Fla. most EV-friendly

Florida ranks top in the nation in a newly-released US Electric Vehicle Accessibility Index, which evaluates how consumer-friendly each state is for purchasing an electric vehicle. Florida’s top marks are a result of the state permitting direct-to-consumer sales, which are prohibited in 17 states, says the ConsumerChoiceCenter.org index.

“Florida has prioritized consumer access for electric vehicles, and other states should follow Florida’s lead,” Consumer Choice Center North American Affairs Manager David Clement said. ” … In today’s age of limitless information at your fingertips, and healthy competition in the auto industry, these restrictions are far past their expiration date. Other states should do exactly what Florida did, and allow for direct-to-consumer sales.”

Clement, who authored the study, also said Florida should be commended for its technology-neutral approach to registration fees. Florida licenses vehicles based on their weight, and does not discriminate against EVs, or hybrid plug-ins. Unfortunately, consumers in 28 states face disproportionate licensing fees if they seek to register their EV, he said.

Originally published here.

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