In 1964, the US Surgeon General issued a report that, in clear terms, described the dangers of cigarette smoking and health. The government waged a publicity war against the manufacturers of cigarettes.
We can argue whether smoking causes cancer and a lesser quality of life (two aspects of health). The proof of causation is very hard for researchers, lawyers, and policy makers to show as fact. This is a different story than this blog post, and one I would suggest everyone researchers.
Recent researchers are now calling sitting and physical inactivity today’s smoking. This is very bad for society. An unhealthy individual, can be a huge risk to not just themselves and their lifespan.
A low quality of life can have huge impact on this individual’s parents, friends, colleagues, and networks. It can put unexpected pressure on health care resources.
Will it take large institutional powers like the US Surgeon General to enact true and real change to impact behaviours, policies, environments, attitudes, and cultures around sitting? Will we have a US Surgeon General 2013 Report on sitting (or Canada’s equivalent)?
The Surgeon General’s 1964 report played a strong part in getting government to more strongly engage in new conversations around cigarettes and smoking. Policies around cigarette advertising, how cigarettes can be shown in retail outlets, taxes on sales, and health education campaigns were part of the mix used by legislatures to try to curb the smoking rates across the Canadian public. Part of government’s strategy was to go after manufacturers and sellers of cigarettes.
This raises some interesting points. If the government does come out with strong new and enhanced current policies, laws, and regulations surrounding Canada’s hidden sitting crises, who to target?
Who will they wage a war against? Couch makers? TV producers? Employers of office staff who sit? Car manufacturers? Cities for designing poor neighbourhoods that make walking difficult, or even unsafe? Book publishers? Teachers and principals? Airlines?
These are all places and activities where one can sit for long periods of time.
Second Hand Smoking
Smoking wasn’t the only issue. It also involved second-hand smoke. Those who didn’t smoke would still breathe in the harmful and toxic chemicals and pollutants.
What many don’t know, sitting is similar. If our friends and family like to lounge and sit around watching TV, we are more likely to have similar habits. We hang out with our friends by sitting and watching a movie (don’t get me started on pop and popcorn). It is a little different in that we are actually the one sitting compared to getting the second-hand smoke. However, this is just one example of the extreme complexity of human habits and behaviour choices.
For those with an interest in health, health psychology, health policies, or habit behaviours, when it involves health-related matters and the men, women, and children of a population, there is no easy and no one answer. It will take all the above mentioned players, plus many more stakeholders, organizations, and individuals working together, and perhaps against each other at times, to help get sitting in the spotlight like the the Surgeon General’s report back in the 1960s.
As part of my work with Okanagan Elite Athlete, I would encourage everyone to #TakeTheActivePledge, today! Don’t wait for government to take action, when you have the answer right in your lap. Literally.
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Adam Goodwin is changing the world by growing the local #TakeTheActivePledge to a global movement. He is currently Marketing Coordinator for Okanagan Elite Athlete. Along with his start-up one3ag, he is changing the lives of individual children, teen, youth, adults, and older adults with the #TakeTheActivePledge movement. Join him today to help save a generation.