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Many Americans Ambivalent Over Laws Aimed at Healthy Living
Date:3/21/2012

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- With a recent flood of new regulations or proposals aimed at governing lifestyle choices such as smoking, eating or cellphone use, is the United States in danger of becoming a "nanny state"?

According to a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll, most Americans remain ambivalent about the issue, agreeing that policies that aim to protect public health and safety are sometimes necessary, but believing as well that adults should take responsibility for their own actions, and consequences for health.

In the online survey of more than 2,200 U.S. adults conducted in late February, 81 percent of respondents agreed and 33 percent strongly agreed that laws aimed at protecting public safety -- for example, regulations concerning safe driving or childhood vaccinations -- are important to keeping Americans safe.

More than three-quarters also agreed that such initiatives do actually work.

But on the other hand, almost two-thirds (61 percent) worried that these same laws might be too coercive, impeding individual freedoms.

"The public is somewhat schizophrenic about laws and policies that are intended to improve health and safety and reduce injuries and accidents," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll. "Most people favor many regulations that protect them but they worry about our becoming a 'nanny state.' "

Pollsters quizzed respondents on 14 different policies, laws and programs intended to improve health and safety.

"Most of the 14 policies, programs and regulations in our survey are supported by large majorities of adults, and some of them are strongly supported," Taylor said.

For instance, virtually all (91 percent) supported a ban on texting while driving, while 74 percent "strongly" supported this initiative.

Other road-safety initiatives that garnered majority support were banning talki
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