Norway’s new public health minister stirred controversy when she said people should be “allowed to smoke, drink, and eat as much red meat as they want”.
In an interview with Norwegian broadcaster NRK posted on Monday, Sylvi Listhaug said it was not the government’s job to tell people what is or is not healthy.
“I do not plan to be the moral police,” the 41-year-old populist politician said.
She also expressed sympathy for smokers, herself a “social smoker”, calling them a “pariah” of society and repeating that people need to choose for themselves how to behave.
She emphasised that smoking must be allowed in some places. An NRK image of Listhaug smoking and drinking soda has since been trending on social media sites.
Anne Lise Ryel, secretary-general of the Norwegian Cancer Society, said that she was concerned that Listhaug’s appointment would set public health back many decades.
“It seems she has little understanding of what public health really is and what her task as a minister in that area is,” Ryel told NRK.
Listhaug, a member of the right-wing Progress Party, previously served as justice minister but resigned from the government in March 2018 after posting controversial comments on Facebook.
Listhaug had posted an image of terrorists on Facebook with text that said the opposition Labour Party was putting “terrorists’ rights” before national security.