Ban the Bottle?


Mr. Nice Guy points out (in an e-mail message with the subject line "Tit Nannies," which initially led me to believe it was about Brent Bozell and the Parents Television Council) that Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has come out against a ban on the distribution of free baby formula in hospitals that was announced in December by the state Public Health Council. The council's reasoning: Breast-feeding is healthier than bottle-feeding, so new mothers should not be given a choice between the two. Anne Merewood, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, tells Reuters: "We don't feel it is a good public health policy to give them out. New mothers are a vulnerable group and this is pure marketing. These are brand name products from the hospital. It looks like the hospital is endorsing it. It's like putting Pepsi-Cola machines in the schools."

It is noteworthy, by the way, how quickly soda machines in schools have become a paradigmatic public health hazard, similar to open sewers or plague-carrying rats. In any case, Romney does not think baby formula in hospitals belongs in the same category. The governor says, "I'm not enthusiastic about the heavy arm of government coming in and saying: 'We think we know better than mothers, and we are going to decide for you.'"

I think Romney's right, but I doubt he'd consistently extend the same principle to adults' decisions about what is best for themselves vis-a-vis drugs, gambling, sex, and other restricted pleasures. Which is sort of odd when you think about it, because at least in the case of breast-feeding vs. bottle-feeding there's another person whose interests are at stake–and not just another person but an innocent, helpless person who is depending on adults to make good decisions on his behalf.