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14 May 2019

Norway has a new Public Health Minister and one who has an interesting new take on what healthy living is.

Sylvi Listhaug, from the right-wing Progress Party that is part of the four-member coalition government headed by the Conservative Party, was recently appointed to the job and immediately made controversial headlines.

During an interview with Norwegian broadcaster NRK, Ms Listhaug said people should be allowed to eat, smoke and drink as much as they want.

“My starting point for this with public health is very simple. I do not plan to be the moral police, and will not tell people how to live their lives, but I intend to help people get information that forms the basis for making choices,” she said.

“People should be allowed to smoke, drink and eat as much red meat as much as they want. The authorities may like to inform, but people know pretty much what is healthy and what is not healthy, I think.”

On the subject of smoking, the populist politician said: “I think many smokers feel like pariahs. So they almost feel they have to hide away, and I think that’s stupid. Although smoking is not good, because it is harmful, adults have to decide for themselves what they do.

“The only thing we as governments are to do is to provide information so that people can make informed choices.”

Norway’s Cancer Society said the new Health Minister’s comments were harmful and had damaged public health initiatives.

“Many will adhere to what she says,” the Society’s Secretary General Anne Lise Ryel told NRK.

“That is to say, public health has been set back many decades,“

Others in the public realm have criticised the Minister, saying she has little understanding of public health and is the wrong person for the job.

Last year, Ms Listhaug was forced to quit the Government after accusing the Labour and the Christian Democrats parties of putting “terrorists’ rights” before national security over a controversial citizenship bill.

An anti-immigration politician, she also jumped off a rescue boat into the Mediterranean in 2016 saying she wanted to see what it is like to be a refugee.

Ms Listhaug says she only smokes on social occasions herself these days.


Published: 14 May 2019