As I was walking through my local shops the other day, I noticed a ‘going out of business’ sign on the solarium. Apparently, in ground breaking legislation, the NSW government has banned solariums – the second place this has happened in the world, behind only Brazil.
This is obviously good news. For one, I will be glad to no longer have to view the posters of glistening bikini clad ladies whilst on the school run. And of course we know skin cancer is a nasty entity (ranked #16 on the mortality charts for Australians), so why offer people an extra opportunity to get a little cancer if they are just popping to the shop for milk and bread?
This made me stop (away from aforementioned bikini clad ladies) and consider all the other things that are banned, ostensibly for our own best interests. We can’t take a bottle of water on a plane now, as someone once tried to use one in a bomb. We always have to remove our shoes before getting on a plane too, as someone once again almost blew one up. We can’t buy alcohol after 10pm because every weekend it seems another youth is being fatally punched to the ground in Kings Cross. Gun laws were tightened after the Port Arthur massacre and hallelujah perhaps this has saved us from the fate of the US who seem to report a new gunman reign of terror each week. Oh and let’s not forget the WA government making sure we are not eaten alive by great white sharks. (Or not, as it seems the case may be, because they haven’t actually caught any yet)
However, the government will let me stand outside the solarium, soak up a few rays, smoke a cigarette and eat a greasy burger with fries and a Coke– if this is my habit, my chances of dying are far higher than the equivalent time inside. Because top Australian killers are heart disease, cerebrovascular diseases (things like haemorrhages and strokes) and in fourth place is trachea, bronchus and lung cancer (third is dementia, in case you were wondering about my mathematical abilities).
We also know that the vast majority of these illnesses are caused by lifestyle factors:
1. Australia’s obesity rates having grown 81% in the last 33 years - with 29% of our adult population now classified as obese.
2. “ Professor of health policy at Curtin University Mike Daube said "incredibly low" vegetable consumption reveals that fast food has eclipsed vegetables as a dietary staple”
3. A recent report found that 80% of Australian kids are not getting daily exercise and are amongst the least active in the world – only Scottish kids came in worse in a study of 15 nations and hey, it’s really really cold there for a lot of the year, so that seems fair enough.
4. And 20.4% of adult males and 16.3% of adult females still smoke, despite regular horrible visual reminders of how unlikely it is to end well for them.
So the government is busy protecting us against plane hijacking, skin cancer (from solariums – they don’t seem to care about you too much on Bondi beach), one punch knockouts, bitey hungry sharks and gunman massacres. There is no doubt that these are all horrible, shocking things and it would be great to be without them - by my count this probably keeps about 800 Australians alive per year. Even if you add total skin cancers into the equation, it is still coming in around 3000 maximum.
But heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and lung cancer kill 38000 Australians per year. 38000! Let’s not knock my maths - surely it’s the government who needs a new calculator here? Talk about security theatre!
So do we feel safer, knowing the government is keeping our toes from the sharks and checking our shoes for the terrorists? So we can sit comfortably with those safe feet up, on our large-ish behinds, happily scoffing our junk food whilst watching someone else get active on the tv? If all else fails, perhaps they can look for inspiration in their own policies and at very least consider a 10pm McDonalds lockout? Force you to take your shoes off to get to the shop to buy junk food? Or perhaps big trawlers can start shooting obese swimmers at the beach - actually, let’s give them a break because at least they are trying to exercise which is more than can be said for the bulk of Australians…