North Carolina Tells Blogger That Providing Dietary Advice Is Illegal, Blogger Tells NC To Read The 1st Amendment
from the lawsuit-on dept
A guy named Steve Cooksey developed Type II diabetes a few years back, and in response ended up embracing a paleolithic diet and exercise regime (something that’s increasingly popular these days). It seemed to work quite well for him, and he ended up setting up a website called Diabetes-Warrior.net in which he wrote about that and related issues. As more people got interested in the site and what he was saying, he also started answering questions and providing advice on the site (a la Dear Abby) as well as setting up a (fee-based) “coaching” service to help those interested in a similar diet/exercise regime.
The State of North Carolina decided all of this was illegal. Apparently providing any advice to others about dieting, without a license, puts you in some hot water.
It turns out that, like nearly every other state, North Carolina has a law that regulates the practice of “dietics/nutrition.” There are a set of rules, which require getting a license before you can provide any sort of dietary advice. Like many such operations it appears the regulatory regime here is much more about limiting the supply of professionals to keep pricing artificially high, rather than any real health or safety mission.
Now, it’s good to stop people from outright lying about their credentials, and there may even be some gray areas where someone is actively implying professional expertise that they don’t have. But can you actually ban amateurs from sharing their opinions on diets at all?
It appears that Cooksey, along with the Institute for Justice are about to test that question, filing a lawsuit claiming that the attempt to prevent him from providing advice was a violation of his First Amendment rights.
But the First Amendment does not allow the government to ban people from sharing ordinary advice about diet, or scrub the Internet—from blogs to Facebook to Twitter—of speech the government does not like. North Carolina can no more force Steve to become a licensed dietitian than it could require Dear Abby to become a licensed psychologist.
IJ also made a short animated video about the case:
This seems like an important question that could impact a number of different “regulated” industries as well. I recognize the idea that protecting the public from fraudulent or scammy advisers is what may appear to be a laudable goal, but it’s wide open to abuse in which ideas that the government doesn’t like are censored for not coming from a “licensed” practitioner.