I know I go on quite a bit about the politics of drinking. Here’s a very good illustration of why I do.
- Introduce minimum pricing
- Increase in spirits duty
- Increase “industrial white cider duty”
- Duty increases should predominantly be on stronger drinks
- Statutory regulation of advertising from outside of alcohol and advertising industry
- No billboards within 100 metres of schools
- 9 o’ clock watershed for TV advertising
- Cinema advertising only for films with an 18 certificate
- If over 10% of audience/readership is under 18 then medium should not be used to advertise
- Alcohol advertising banned on social networking sites
- Impose mandatory code urgently (which bans cut price drinks promotions, demands CCTV in pubs, and more)
- Police to enforce ‘serving to drunks’ legislation
- Government should assess why pubs associated with heavy drinking do not have their licences revoked
- Government should give more powers to local authorities to allow them to restrict and revoke licences
- Copy the restrictions on promotions in the off-trade introduced in Scotland, such as limited areas for alcohol consumption
- Mandatory labelling scheme on all drinks packaging
- Improve alcohol treatment services
Now there are some sensible measures in there – I for one have no problem with steep increases in duty on tramp juice and a fairer allocation of duty on spirits relative to beer. And I’m still undecided on minimum pricing – I disagree with the level being recommended but can see some arguments for it as well as against it. But there are some deeply worrying recommendations too, and it’s the sheer volume of recommendations that’s really scary.
Well, because Liam Donaldson told the committee (with his usual utter disregard of any factual substantiation whatsoever) that there are “no safe limits of drinking,” and that “alcohol is virtually akin to smoking as one of the biggest public health issues we have to face in this country.”
Bollocks of course. But officially published, sanctioned, and undisputed bollocks.
And that comparison with smoking is quite deliberate. Not all the measures listed above will come to pass, but arguably the most important line in the report is this one: “Education, information campaigns and labelling will not directly change behaviour, but they can change attitudes and make more potent policies more acceptable.”Smoking hasn’t been banned form British society. But consistent campaigning against smoking eventually changed social attitudes towards it. The smoking ban came in because the majority of people were in favour of it. Nobody but the ad industry minded when advertising and sponsorship were banned. Making smoking socially unacceptable was far more effective than trying to ban it outright. The anti-drink lobby have learned from this, and this report is a naked attempt to make drinking socially unacceptable.But drinking is NOT the same as smoking. The BMA itself acknowledges the beneficial effects of moderate drinking. Nevertheless, this report seeks to persuade people to treat it the same way, and is meeting with little resistance.I’ve spent most of the last day immersed in the report, following the links to its sources, trying to work out what they’re really saying, drawing graphs so data is more easily understandable. And I’ve found that the report is highly selective in the data it uses, misrepresents what other data is saying, and in many places contains blatant untruths. It needs to be challenged.I’ve got kind of obsessed with doing so, and I’ve got lots of charts, quotes etc which do not seek to manipulate or twist the data, like the anti-alcohol lobby unfailingly does, but just present the raw numbers – collated by independent and reliable government sources and even the NHS itself – which prove that many of the report’s conclusions are deeply – I’d argue even wilfully – flawed.Over the next few days, I’ll be putting up several posts which debunk each of the following, oft-repeated myths:
- “Alcohol consumption in the UK is increasing”
- “Binge drinking is increasing”
- “Alcohol is becoming more affordable”
- “Binge drinking has been made much worse by the introduction of 24 hour licensing”
- “Alcohol related hospital admission are soaring”
- “Alcohol advertising and promotion must be tightly regulated, primarily because it is encouraging children to drink more alcohol.”
- “Alcohol abuse costs the country £55bn a year”
Sorry to go on. But please stay tuned. And if you ever hear someone spouting any of the above bollocks, please rip off the charts and use them to argue back.