It's only fair to share…

Lets start with some statements of the obvious. Firstly smoking is bad for your health. Second, you cannot purchase a product that is not in existence. And if a product is no longer made, it cannot be “advertised” because you cannot buy it.

Last week saw just how far the health bureaucracy and the anti smoking lobby are removed from anything resembling common sense. A pub has its walls decorated with a plethora of vintage ads. Now I will declare a bias here – I love vintage ads. They are a glimpse into a time gone by and demonstrate the attitudes and beliefs of the time.

Amongst the memorabilia were posters for tobacco products, which no longer are in existence. The owner was threatened with a fine of up to $40,000 if he failed to remove the posters. It is notable that they have been there for over 20 years. And the venue does not sell tobacco products at all – not even brands, which currently exist.

The vintage signs breached the tobacco control legislation act. Seems like some bureaucrats did a routine inspection and spotted the signs. A health department spokesperson told WA Today “They have been told to take them down and issued with a non-compliance report.

In a remarkable act of defiance the owner went public with the story through both mainstream and social media. Many people in this situation would feel bullied and intimidated and would simply comply.

The following day the Premier announced that he would overturn the decision calling it “ridiculous” and showing a “lack of common sense”. He was quoted on WA Today saying, “they are collectors pieces, they show an era gone by…it is not promoting smoking or selling cigarettes and if that’s the way they want to decorate their pub, good on them”.

That is the good news. Unfortunately he did not think the relevant act needed to be changed. He felt “We just need to apply common sense here”.

And therein lies the problem. Zealots do not have common sense. And even if there were some bureaucrats who wanted to use common sense they would be hounded out of the department. In these days of “compliance”, “ticking boxes” and “accreditation” there is no room for common sense. Those found guilty of “non compliance “ with health department edicts would be taking risks with their job.

The line is often trotted to defend catchall legislation out that ‘if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear”. This notion has no credibility any more. The likelihood of common sense being applied next time is zero.

As I noted earlier, most people when threatened with a hefty fine by an unelected unaccountable government busy body will comply. And who can blame them. Hence, my full admiration for Paul North of J.B O’Reilly’s.

It may not be coincidental that in the same week it emerged that the health department had wasted over $80 million on botched IT projects. This is the same department who, together with fellow travelers in the medical associations and nurses unions, always bleats about needing more “funding”. One can only wonder how much more money has been squandered?

Yet there is wastage on a grand scale and enough money to hound small business owners.

It should not have ever come to this. The need for a state premier to intervene shows that the system has badly broken down. How many other instances of unfair “non common sense “ harassment of people are going on that we do not know about. The book Scared to Death by Christopher Book and Richard North detailed the zealousness of health bureaucrats in the UK (mainly in the 1980’s and 90’s) and how unfairly people were treated.

In Australia in 2016 unfair treatment and zealotry in the name of “health” is alive and well. I have no confidence that common sense will prevail. Legislation, which gives undue power to people not fit to exercise it, needs to be changed.

People power needs to move from social media into the streets and ballot boxes.


Dr Joe Kosterich M.B.B.S is an author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, who wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life. Dr Joe also gives practical, motivational health talks for the general public and organisations where he is known as “An independent doctor who talks about health”.

His latest book “60 minutes to Better Health” is available on Amazon.