Move Over, Michelle, Surgeon General is New Nanny-in-Chief

Every time I hear that there is a message from the office of the Surgeon General my first thought is “We still have a Surgeon General?” 

Then I hear about whatever silly issue the office is pushing and I wonder why taxpayers still fund what has now become a vanity office.

In the past, the Surgeon General focused on the greatest threats to Americans’ health, most notably the 1964 report against smoking (though it still incorrectly labeled it as not an addiction).  That’s now changed.

For years the office has been focusing on second-tier health issues that are the pet cause of the Surgeon General.  The latest is from the current Surgeon General – dermatologist Boris Lushniak – who has determined skin cancer to be one of the greatest health threats in America.  I’m not going to go on a “Pimple Popper M.D.” Seinfeld-esque rant, but I do think it’s important that someone with the largest platform for any doctor give the most time and resources to the most deadly and prevalent diseases.  Surely, it’s no coincidence that a dermatologist sees the disease he specializes in as the biggest threat.  It’s like when Republican congressmen from Iowa suddenly like government hand-outs.  Or when I insist that the biggest threat to the economy is people not buying this book.

However, among the last several reports or Calls to Action issued by the Surgeon General’s office, skin cancer is the lowest in annual causes of death.

  • Tobacco use – 443,000 annual deaths.
  • Obesity – 112,000 annual deaths.
  • Deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism – 100,000 deaths.
  • Suicide – 33,000 deaths.
  • Skin cancer – 9,000 deaths.

By comparison, there are over 600,000 deaths per year from heart disease – the leading cause of death for both men and women.  Also, in terms of cancer alone, skin cancer ranks 10th in terms of mortality in the 10 most common cancers.  This isn’t an issue of saying one cancer is better or worse than the other, but questioning why this pet cause deserves a big PR campaign from “America’s Doctor” when so many other deadlier health problems exist.  It’s also a question of what all government PR campaigns are really about.

As I wrote about earlier this week in “The Lobbyist and The Entrepreneur,” the Left longs for a society that not only punishes the risk-takers to the point of despair, but one where every person’s livelihood is dependent on the government – and lobbyists – to pick winners and losers.

Earlier this summer, Derek Hunter at Townhall gave a clue as to why the Administration may have a hand in the Surgeon General’s report:

This issue came to my attention when my friend and former co-worker Ryan Ellis wrote about it in the Washington Times a couple of weeks ago. Ryan knows the tax code, he works at Americans for Tax Reform (where I used to work), so he’s not a fan of increasing taxes on anything. That he’s on the side of the Jersey Shore’s Snooki is just a coincidence, and something I include here to tease him.

But Ryan Ellis and Snooki are correct (you have no idea how much I enjoyed writing that sentence): the more you tax something, the less of it you get. And the tax imposed on tanning salons by Obamacare has severely damaged that industry. As Ellis put it, “In the past four years, an estimated 8,000 tanning salons have closed their doors, according to the American Suntanning Association.” You may not think that matters, but he continues, “This has cost 64,000 employees and owners of these tanning salons their jobs.”

That’s a lot of jobs lost in an economy in desperate need of jobs.

The Surgeon General’s Call to Action on skin cancer stated, “Although genetic factors, such as being fair-skinned or having a family history of skin cancer, contribute to a person’s risk, the most common types of skin cancer are also strongly associated with exposure to UV radiation.”

However, in an interview with the Washington Post, Surgeon General Lushniak admitted they don’t actually know the cause.

WP: But we don’t know for sure what’s causing the increase?

Lushniak: In essence, we really don’t. From the epidemiological surveillance perspective, we see the numbers increasing. But in terms of looking at specific [causes] of that, it’s still difficult to determine.

Then, the Surgeon General made this ironic jump:

WP: Your report mentions indoor tanning. What role do we believe indoor tanning plays in melanoma? And what more can be done about that? There are state regulations. The FDA has proposed some tighter regulation on tanning beds.

Lushniak: I’ve got to, as acting surgeon general, call out the facts. And the facts are that indoor tanning is a source of ultraviolet radiation, period.

We already have enough government nannies who use “good health” as a blanket excuse to take away freedom and tax businesses out of existence.  Please, no more Michael Bloombergs, Michelle Obamas, or Surgeon General reports while real health concerns go ignored.  Their caring is killing us and the economy.


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