Anyone who has ever taken a course or workshop with me knows that I am a strong supporter of upstream social marketing.
For the uninitiated, upstream social marketing are used because sometimes significant environmental barriers exist which makes it difficult for behaviour change to occur at the individual level. In these cases, it may be necessary to employ upstream efforts, which aim to change the political, social, legal, physical or public policy environment by giving messages to industry or government. The upstream concept involves influencing decisions makers and facilitating changes in environments so change (individual or systemic) can take place.
However sometimes we can carry this concept too far. Social marketers than become accused of either “social engineering” and/or “promoting a nanny state”. This does not help social marketing as a discipline and makes us look like a “bunch of do gooders” who think government can solve all of our problems… it can’t
For example I just read an article in Maclean’s magazine which clearly demonstrates that sometimes you can overdo it.
Recently in San Francisco or as it is better known “Ban San Frisco” there is a proposal for a ban on circumcision, though this is hardly the first time the city has been accused of overreaching its mandate to deliver on things like sewers, water, roads, bridges etc. A tremendous amount of proclamations and prohibitions emanate from “Ban Francisco,” some already in force, others waiting to come into play.
Just a taste of things banned in San Francisco:
- Plastic shopping bags;
- Sugary soft drinks and bottled water sold on city property;
- Sitting/lying on sidewalks;
- Toys in non-nutritious fast food meals for children;
- The declawing of cats;
- Smoking in sports stadiums and open-air restaurants or outside doors, windows and vents of buildings;
- Tobacco sales in pharmacies;
- City staff visiting or doing business with Arizona, whose immigration law “set the clock back on a generation of civil rights gains,” notes the ordinance;
- The battleship Iowa (rejected as a massive floating museum because supervisors objected to the war in Iraq and the military’s treatment of gays and lesbians);
- Cellphones sold without posted radiation emission levels;
- Soliciting charitable donations at San Francisco’s airport;
- City contracts “with any person or entity” utilizing “any tropical hardwood, tropical hardwood wood product, virgin redwood or virgin redwood wood product.”
- Expanding the tobacco prohibition to include smokeless electronic cigarettes;
- Ban on the unsolicited distribution of Yellow Pages phone books.
One controversial idea that didn’t make the cut: a city-wide ban on the sale of “companion animals”—essentially all pets but fish. It was shelved by the animal control and welfare commission. But who knows what the future brings.
One recent exception is a proposed statewide prohibition on the possession and sale of shark fins, meant to protect threatened shark populations. (Shark fin soup is a cultural staple for major celebrations among Chinese people) State Sen. Leland Yee, who is running for mayor, is among many in the Chinese community who are fighting the ban. In February, Yee led a similar charge that overturned a year-old state ban on importing non-native frogs and turtles for food. In both cases the bans target Asian-American culture.
Based on the ban on circumcision, I suspect the Jewish community will be coming out in force.
It is fighting childhood obesity by decreeing that kids doesn’t get a plastic toy unless his or her fast food meal contains a minimum three-quarters of a cup of veggies and half a cup of fruit. “It’s not a ban, it’s an incentive”
On the other hand, Arizona—perhaps smarting from San Francisco’s boycott of the state—reacted by passing legislation banning cities from banning restaurant toys. Other restaurant incentives now protected in Arizona include trading cards, colouring books and crayons. Florida is debating a similar ban on bans. Yes now we have a ban on bans…
Other items on the agenda, is preventing a children’s day camp from serving marshmallow s’mores at its campfires.
While most cities have rules protecting historic buildings and sites, San Francisco deems that any building 50 years or older requires a review before significant alterations are allowed or its facade is changed
San Francisco didn’t ban water-wasting toilets, but it offers incentives to install low-ﬂow models. The result: a huge drop in water use—and a chronic “rotten egg” stench wafting from sewers, in part because there’s less water to push sewage to treatment plants. The cure: dumping US$14 million worth of bleach down the sewers.
Supervisors were also too quick off the mark in 2006 to ban toys and child-care products made with any level of bisphenol A. They sheepishly repealed the law as unenforceable a year later when it became clear the ban outlawed many life-saving medical devices, the anti-corrosion coating in metal food and drink cans, unbreakable eyeglass lenses, and bicycle helmets.
They did not ban pesticide use to prevent weeds? Yes we have that in Ottawa. So now Ottawa is the dandelion capital of Canada.
They also did not ban perfumes and after shave lotions etc. an idea promoted here in Ottawa but thankfully never wnet anywhere.
So yes many of these changes are worthwhile and can contribute to the health and wealth of the city, country etc. but sometimes you can overdo it.
Let me know what you think.