Competing Business Interests Undermine Society’s Wellness Goals

The legislative battle winding up in Austin Texas over a proposal to restrict The smoking age for vapor cigarettes highlights the ongoing conflict between Americans’ stated policy commitment to wellness and the economic interests of certain businesses within the American economy.

Texas Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, a doctor, is among several representatives in the Texas Legislature supporting a bill that would among other things raise the smoking age to 21 and support preventative education to reduce smoking.  See  H.B. 1908.

Government and private research data has demonstrated that substantial health risks and costs of smoking for decades, see here, The propose legislation faces significant opposition from businesses who say that the new rules would hurt their financial profitability. See here.

The battle between businesses that profit from the sale of tobacco products and health care advocates who oppose their use for health reasons has gone on for decades and mirrors arguments betwee wellness advocates and businesses that profit from products with high sugar content, alcohol and a myriad of other products with no health risks.

Historically,  businesses have come out on top in these battles except in some notable instances where regulations restricting the sales marketing a product children have gained a foothold.  Well wellness advocates have obtain more success in promoting requirements and consumers, American law Hartley continues to Faber consumer choice over compulsory wellness in the marketplace.

The high value generally placed upon Americans on consumer choice create unique challenges in the promotion of wellness in the United States.   Smoking, diet and lifestyle based obesity, heart disease, diabetes in other epidemics associated with poor lifestyle choices merton our healthcare system with excessive costs and treatment demands.  Meanwhile health coverage policy continues to insulate individuals for consequences of poor lifestyle choices by insulating individuals from financial responsibility for the added costs of their choices through community rating, nondiscrimination requirements and other protective rules.

With lifestyle-driven health care cost a significant driver in our skyrocketing healthcare system, however,  efforts to restrict smoking and other unhealthy products are gaining more traction.  Likewise, a shift in favor of wellness is also reflected growing support for legislative reforms that allow financial or other incentives to support wellness initiatives like Congress’ 2009 amendment of the wellness provisions of the nondiscrimination rules of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act to permit greater financial incentives in group health plans.  However the effectiveness of these legislative actions to support well nest have been limited by heavy-handed policies of the equal employment opportunity commission that fly in the face of the congressional directive and continued prohibitions on most Health coverage underwriting.

With lifestyle-driven a leading contributor to America’s burgeoning healthcare costs, Americans should continue to reevaluate policy provisions that insulate Americans who exercise the freedom of choice our government allows to make unhealthy lifestyle decisions from the financial consequences of their actions.  

As long as Americans both refuse to restrict behaviors that are unhealthy and refuse to pass along the added cost of these unhealthy choices to individuals that make the poor lifestyle decisions in the form of insurance premiums or other penalties, it is unlikely that efforts to bring down these costs for behavioral change will be effective.