Regulating Pleasure: National Center for Public Policy Research Sponsors a Debate with Consumers, Public Health and Policy Experts at London’s Royal Society of Medicine

When Setting Regulatory Policy, How Do We Protect Health and Consumer Freedom to Pursue Pleasure?

London, England – In a world first, a broad range of experts will meet in London July 13 at the Royal Society of Medicine to discuss and debate the best way forward for society to regulate consumption of pleasurable substances.

In the public health policy world, pleasure-seeking is pathologized as “addiction” and seen simply as a problem to solve. The symposium will include insights from policymakers, consumers and addiction-treatment experts, and start a constructive dialogue between various stakeholders in the public and the policy world.

It is habitually claimed that addiction to legally-available tobacco and alcohol and a range of illegal psychoactive substances leads to tremendous social and economic harm. However, policymakers’ response to reducing harm from such consumption behaviors often manifests in prohibitionist actions.

“Regulating the pleasure drugs bring is a key responsibility that governments tend to duck. At one extreme they have failed to adequately regulate, and gifted the trade to corporates. At the other extreme prohibition has gifted the market to organized crime groups. Recent moves to legalize cannabis shows government can regulate pleasure whilst promoting citizen wellbeing,” says keynote speaker Danny Kushlick, Director of External Affairs at Transform, an influential think-tank on drug policy.

“If the phenomenon of seeking pleasure through psychoactive substances itself is as old as society, the prominence of the medical profession and the use of medical argumentation are new in the debate. Doctors have taken the role of priests in calling for drastic interventions in the lifestyles of citizens. Proposals for restrictions, higher taxes and tougher penalties have the potential to intrude into the private lives of individuals in the very sphere that they are most keen to protect – their pursuit of pleasure,” argues the chair of the session, Dr. Axel Klein, Editor of the policy journal Drugs and Alcohol Today.

The topic of this symposium will also be covered in the forthcoming special issue of the journal.

The symposium promises new insights from an often forgotten stakeholder in such debates: the consumer.

Lorien Jollye, of the vaper advocacy group New Nicotine Alliance, will speak on her “relationship with nicotine”: “Something that often gets lost or even ignored in the attempt to ‘cure’ or ‘save’ smokers is the fact that many actually enjoy the habit itself. To be effective, safer nicotine delivery systems have to be pleasurable, which is exactly what vaping is for me. By demonizing the least dangerous part of smoking, nicotine, smokers continue to be classed as patients or victims. It’s time that stopped.”

The event is sponsored by the U.S.-based National Center for Public Policy Research, and Senior Fellow Jeff Stier is keen to “share thoughts on what to look for when considering science used to support pro-regulation arguments, so that scientists, policymakers, and the public are better equipped to digest science in a more rational way, leading to better outcomes.”

The organizers hope that the event will pave the way for future wider debates in public health policy on how the pursuit of pleasure can be protected and integrated in the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.

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