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Neo-Prohibitionist Math

Sadly, the United States is not the only country with people who want others live according to their morals. A British Bulletin reader sent in a BBC article about Alcohol Concern, a UK neo-prohibitionist organization that refers to itself as the “national agency on alcohol misuse.” In the article, “Call to stop children’s drinking,” they, of course, use the “it’s for the children” strategy and it’s peppered with plenty of alarmist language about an increase in drinking among 11-13-year olds and citing that “[i]t is currently illegal to give an alcoholic drink to a child under five except under medical supervision in an emergency.” Now what might constitute such an emergency I can’t fathom but the only reason I can see for including it is that it implies that the whole of English parentage is putting beer in their baby’s bottles. It makes it easier to push an agenda when you hammer home the extremes rather than the truth. Of course, alcohol laws are different in the UK. Here’s an overview.

The group Alcohol Concern is also asking for a whopping 16% raise on taxes for alcohol products. And they also want alcohol education to be added to the National Curriculum, which in and of itself is not a bad thing but at the same time they want to restrict parents’ ability to educate their children about alcohol in the home. “Alcohol Concern would include meal times at home in the ban on giving alcohol to young people.” So what that suggests is they believe the government should be deciding what alcohol information should be given to kids and parents should have little or no hand in raising them. Now does that make any sense at all? Since when is the government in a better position to teach your children about anything better than you are? As Karen Gardner, who operates the Parenting Cafe, puts it in a rebuttal:

Parenting is about preparing your children for life.

I’ve just helped my 11-year-old son open his first bank account. When I get to a road with my four-year-old, I get him to decide when it’s safe to cross. It’s the same with alcohol. On your 15th birthday you don’t suddenly develop the ability to deal with alcohol, but by the time you’re 15 you are going to parties where alcohol is flowing. If Alcohol Concern got their way, you’d be sending them out with absolutely no experience of drinking at all and they’d go out and sink four vodkas.

The thing that really concerns me about this law is that if it’s made illegal, parents will tell kids, ‘You can’t drink, I’ll go to prison’. Then a child goes out and does drink too much and needs to call home for help, but feels they can’t in case they get mum or dad into trouble. I understand that some teenagers are going out and binge drinking in town centres, but parents who let their kids do that won’t care about a law anyway. All the law would do is stop responsible parents from trying to educate their children. It would infantilise parents.

Perhaps more troubling, though, is Alcohol Concerns own education materials. They also run a website, Down Your Drink, which purports to help people figure out whether or not they drink too much. Toward that end they also offer a three-question quiz to determine your level of drinking.

Forget for the time being that your weight or general health plays no role whatsoever in the equation, as absurd a notion as I can imagine, but then real education is not the goal. My own “drinking pattern indicates a possible increased risk of alcohol affecting [my] health.” Well, that’s not a surprise, but it doesn’t take into account that I’m a big fella or that I’m most often drinking as a part of my work. No matter, they want to alarm and proselytize, not educate.

You have to answer “Never” or “Monthly or less,” “1 or 2” and “Never” to be considered “drinking sensibly.” If you have 1 or 2 drinks 2-4 times a month (that would be a pint or two once a week or less) and you too could be at an “increased risk of alcohol affecting your health.” How absurd. Of all the possible ways to answer the questionnaire, only two will get you an answer of being a responsible drinker. As far as they’re concerned having one or two drinks monthly or less with no episodes with six drinks in one session is exactly the same as having “10 or more” drinks “daily or almost daily.” How is such inflexible thinking in any way helpful or useful?

But there’s one more absurdity to tackle. Take a close look at how they define “a drink containing alcohol.” They consider “1 drink” to be either “1/2 pint of beer,” “1 glass of wine” or “1 single measure of spirits.” So what that means is that 8 ounces of beer, with an average alcohol content of 4-5% ABV, is the same as one glass of wine, whose alcohol content average is around 14% ABV. I’m not sure what the average glass of wine holds, but even at 4 ounces it would pack more of a punch than twice as much beer. Now that’s some pretty fancy math. I’d love to know how they came up with that standard where a pint of beer is twice as bad as one glass of wine.

No wonder they believe there’s such a problem. When you define almost any amount of drinking, no matter how responsibly small, as being a potential health risk — and ignoring any of the many health benefits — then naturally you will believe there’s an epidemic of drinking problems. But then it’s more likely that you believed that to begin with and are using skewed reasoning and questionable statistics to support your agenda and make it sound more scientific. It’s called lying with statistics and it’s not that hard to do, especially when the mainstream media reports it as fact without questioning it either, which happens more often than not.

Take a look at their research team here at the left, undoubtedly a bunch of models. They’re too politically correct in terms of the mix of young and old, male and female, and racial percentages to be the real research team. And those lab coats are hilarious. But that’s the propaganda of trying to make it seem more serious, more worthy of believing. Don’t fall for it. If all looks too perfect or convenient, it probably is. Few issues are as black and white as they try to paint this one.

Drinking is obviously a huge problem for the people who already don’t and want the rest of us to stop. There are and always will be people who will abuse anything, both benignly and harmful alike. But the answer to dealing with such people should never be to take the object of abuse away from everyone. You don’t end up fixing the problem but instead make it worse, plus you end up punishing the people least deserving of such punishment, the ones who can enjoy things responsibly. Prohibition has never worked for anything. Laws prohibiting murder were among the first laws society ever agreed upon, and it hasn’t eradicated killing yet. You teach people it’s wrong and hope for the best. The same is true concerning alcohol. You teach your children about what it is, how to enjoy it responsibly and how not to abuse it. Take that away, and your kids will be ignorant binge drinkers rebelling against society the first chance they get. But the neo-prohibitionists don’t seem able to grasp this and instead want a Stepford society that forces rather than educates. It uses scare tactics and lies instead of reason and understanding. It would be ridiculous were it not for the growing number of people who think it’s okay to want to tell me and you how to live. Why can’t these people just live how they want to and leave the rest of us alone?

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