Remember when Democrats and liberals loudly deplored the prominence of ”social” issues such as abortion on the political agenda. Government, they said, should stay out of people’s lives and focus on the economic conditions that make a real difference in the world. 

Well, that was then- before suburbanites decided that they didn’t want to come home from a restaurant with the odor of cigarette smoke in their hair and clothes; before they realized that the teenager behind the wheel talking on the cellphone was a danger to both himself and others; and before they noticed that their fellow middle-class professionals had become crackberry addicts who couldn’t stop themselves from texting while driving. 

Today, the new social agenda focuses on the nexus between lifestyle choices and health and safety concerns. And its advocates are having unprecedented success in the Virginia General Assembly.

The legislative docket in Virginia (and in many other states) increasingly appears to be drawn from the pages of Prevention magazine.

Although overshadowed this session by the choices involved in coping with the budget shortfall, the prominence of the new social agenda linking health and safety to lifestyle choices is striking.

Just yesterday-

The Assembly passed a smoking ban with more than 60% support that will virtually eliminate the practice in bars as well as restaurants.

Senate Transportation passed legislation prohibiting texting while driving.

And the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation was renamed “The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth” so it could more effectively address childhood obesity concerns.

Support for the prevention agenda crosses party lines. And the arguments that opponents muster cannot garner enough support any longer to stop its momentum.

The smoking ban debate is illustrative as concerns about the health effects of second-hand smoke eventually trumped arguments about the rights of business owners to make their own decisions about whether they choose to permit the use of a legal product in their own establishments.

In Virginia no less. (You can be certain that the cultural symbolism here will be too inviting for the national media to ignore)

There’s a new social agenda in town and its first precept is very clear.

Prevention Rules!

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