Last semester, as part of my graduate coursework in public administration, I took two classes. The Policy Analysis class required a research paper which would evaluate a policy of my choosing and make a policy proposal based on the research. The other class was a self-directed course called Readings in Political Science. That class required choosing a research topic, finding sources and creating a series of small “book reports” on them, and then delivering a final research paper.
A friend sent me a thought-provoking article on Australia’s recent “plain packaging” laws for cigarettes, and I took an interest in municipal water fluoridation after working with author Nancy Addison. The research was challenging, especially since we are expected at the graduate level to do this all with minimal supervision and feedback. But, it was also rewarding to choose my own learning path and to reach the end of the semester with a much deeper awareness of how these policies came into being, both at the local level and on the increasingly complex international stage.
I received A’s on the papers and decided to collect them in this small 70-page volume, Tobacco & Fluoride: Two Essays on Domestic and International Public Health Policy. The book is now available in paperback and in a Kindle version. It sits nicely on the shelf with the essays from the previous semester, collected as Patents & Public Health: Two Essays on Medicine and Genetics as Intellectual Property.
FROM THE INTRODUCTION:
Consider two substances, each with a body of research confirming its toxicity to human beings. People consume one of the substances for pleasure, and the other for its supposed health benefits. The World Health Organization actively bands nations together to reduce the marketability and consumption of the former, yet promotes the latter as an effective health measure. The essays in this book examine the policies governing these two substances: tobacco and fluoride.
Tobacco control policies have gained significant traction as nations around the world evaluate the success of Australia’s recent laws concerning cigarette packaging. Given impetus by the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, these policies have met with little public resistance, their sole opponents the companies which manufacture tobacco products.
At the same time, another movement has gained traction: the opposition to adding fluoride to municipal water systems. Though the World Health Organization advocates fluoridation, a growing number of researchers and voters have called its touted benefits into question. Unlike tobacco, the efforts to eliminate fluoride have met resistance from the medical establishment.
What is the future of these two substances, each known to have harmful effects on human beings and yet viewed so differently in the court of public opinion? The two essays in this book will answer that question. Thank you for reading.