Here at the Future Foundation, we argue that one of the most striking aspects of the Assault on Pleasure trend is its ability to spread between sectors and across international borders – creating, as it were, a form of social and regulatory contagion whereby measures adopted in one industry or country are implemented elsewhere too.
It is against this background that we look towards the US and, in particular, the activities of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine – a body which in July 2011 set up a highly provocative billboard in Indianapolis comparing the effects of eating too much fast food with the dangers of smoking. To illustrate its point, four hot dogs were shown inside a cigarette-style packet adorned by a skull and bones, while the message which accompanied the image was similarly stark: “Hot dogs can wreck your health”.
Now, this was of course an isolated and, it might be thought, rather extreme campaign positioned in a highly tactical location (next to the Indianapolis 500 speedway venue – where consumption of fast food items is particularly high). It also prompted a hostile reaction in some quarters of the online community, with various blogs and social media platforms being used by consumers to vent their frustrations about the approach being taken by the PCRM.
It is, nevertheless, an obvious example of the Assault on Pleasure’s contagion effect in action. And we wonder how long it will be before potentially unhealthy food items are required to carry some degree of health warning – albeit in a rather less aggressive form than the type seen here. We also question which other anti-smoking measures might eventually find application elsewhere. With the tobacco industry facing a ban on branded packaging in both Australia and the UK, is it feasible that similar restrictions will be placed on other items? In the future, will our chocolate bars and burgers and bottles of whisky come to be sold in plain packets and bottles? Certainly, this won’t happen imminently. But in the long-term, it must remain a very real possibility.