Acceptable interventions in the personal behavior of citizens

Michael Bloomberg last week announced that he would commit $220 million to the drive towards increased tobacco control globally. The funds will be directed towards the six facets of WHO’s MPOWER initiative to reduce tobacco use, which include high-level advocacy for enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and raising taxes on tobacco, as well as citizen level interventions to help people reduce their dependency on tobacco.

In a recent global study Ipsos found that citizens across 24 countries vary wildly in the extent to which they feel that the government or other agents should intervene with regards to personal behaviors such as smoking. Those who live in countries that already have a high level of state intervention are much more open to the idea of state intervention on behavior than those who live in more ‘liberal’ states.

By taking into account the views of citizens in the different states the Bloomberg initiative is targeting, the funding will be most effectively distributed. In countries where outright bans are more acceptable to citizens, such as Saudi Arabia, India and China, advocacy groups for legislative reform might be a key partner. Where citizens are adverse to “nanny state” intervention, for example in wealthy northern-European states and the US, information and incentive campaigns might be more effective.