Skip to main content
Unit of study_

LAWS6848: Law, Business and Healthy Lifestyles

Everyone wants to live a long and healthy life, but what are the impediments to a longer lifespan, and a longer healthy life expectancy in Australia? 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, the United States, 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 debate about how best to regulate those business that all too often have a vested interest in unhealthy lifestyles. Law's relationship with smoking, vaping, 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 a broader, international context. This unit will consider some over-arching questions. What are the global determinants of NCDs, and how are these diseases being managed at the international level? 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 freedom and personal responsibility, 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.

Code LAWS6848
Academic unit Law
Credit points 6

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. demonstrate an understanding of evolving legal responses to risk factors for non-communicable diseases – particularly tobacco use, obesity, poor diet, harmful use of alcohol and sedentary lifestyle, with particular attention to legal developments in the United States and Australia
  • LO2. read and analyse primary sources relating to the legal regulation of risk factors for non-communicable diseases
  • LO3. demonstrate an understanding of evolving governance structures for non-communicable diseases and their risk factors at the global level
  • LO4. critically evaluate the merits of legal strategies to prevent and control NCDs and their risk factors and to promote healthy lifestyles
  • LO5. demonstrate an understanding of the contested role of law in prevention, and in the regulation of risk factors for non-communicable diseases
  • LO6. demonstrate an appreciation of the capacity for law to be used innovatively in reducing risk factors for non-communicable diseases, informed by examples of innovation from around the world
  • LO7. demonstrate analytical skills, critical judgment and thinking in a legal context
  • LO8. demonstrate the development of legal writing skills through critical reflection on the appropriate role of law in reducing risk factors for non-communicable diseases at the population level, with particular reference to legal developments in the United States and Australia

Unit outlines

Unit outlines will be available 2 weeks before the first day of teaching for the relevant session.