Law, Business and Healthy Lifestyles (LAWS6848)


This unit is about legal and regulatory responses to tobacco use, obesity, poor diet, harmful use of alcohol and sedentary lifestyle - the leading causes of preventable disease in Australia, in high-income countries generally, and increasingly, in developing economies. Cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and tobacco-related diseases (known as 'non-communicable diseases' or NCDs) are society's greatest killers. But what can law do - and what should law be doing - to prevent them? Unlike other health threats, NCDs and their risk factors are partly caused by consumer choices that are lived out every day across the country. The challenge of encouraging healthier lifestyles cannot be separated, then, from the regulation of the businesses that all too often have a vested interest in unhealthy lifestyles. Law's relationship with smoking, alcohol and food is complex and contested. Nevertheless, governments around the world are experimenting with a wide range of legal strategies to encourage healthier lifestyles. This unit will focus on developments in Australia and the United States, placing legal developments in these countries in an international context. During the course, we will confront some important over-arching questions.  What are the global determinants of NCDs, and to what extent are global solutions needed? What do global solutions look like? To what extent should law intervene to influence the behaviour of populations-as distinct from treating lifestyle-related risk factors as the personal responsibility of each individual? Does a regulatory approach to the prevention of NCDs imply coercion? Does it signal the emergence of the 'nanny state'? Does progress depend on motivating people to consciously improve their habits and lifestyles? Is it possible to regulate business without micro-managing or dictating commercial decisions and 'legislating the recipe for tomato ketchup?' Throughout the unit, students will be encouraged to explore the tension between personal responsibility and freedom, and the broader public interest in a healthy population and a productive economy. Key topics include: Frameworks for thinking about law, and environments that support healthier lifestyles; Global health governance and the prevention of non-communicable diseases; Tobacco control: where to from here? Personal responsibility for health, and law's role; Regulating alcohol; Obesity prevention; and Law's role in improving diet and nutrition, and encouraging active living.

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Further unit of study information


Intro Class: Mar 7 (6-8) then Mar 10, 11 & Apr 18, 19 (9-5)


one short response question (20%) and 6000wd essay (80%) or one short response question (20%), 3000-3500wd essay (40%) and one take-home exam question (40%) or one short response question (20%) and two 3000-3500wd essays (80%)

Faculty/department permission required?


Study this unit outside a degree

Non-award/non-degree study

If you wish to undertake one or more units of study (subjects) for your own interest but not towards a degree, you may enrol in single units as a non-award student.

Cross-institutional study

If you are from another Australian tertiary institution you may be permitted to underake cross-institutional study in one or more units of study at the University of Sydney.