By now, even the casual Bulletin reader has likely noticed that I’ve been following Pete Brown’s brilliant refutation of his national health service’s attack on alcohol, beginning with, Stuff & Nonsense: The UK Health Select Committee Report On Alcohol. The first five parts of Pete’s rebuke have been published over the past few days, and overnight and this morning, west coast time, parts six through nine were posted.
In part 6, Pete tackles the assertion that Alcohol abuse costs the country £55bn a year
Today’s rebuke. In the U.S., this is claim made with alarming regularity, charging alcohol for all manner of sins, and ignoring personal responsibility, common sense and even logic. If there’s a whiff of alcohol anywhere in the vicinity, then by gum the whole thing is alky’s fault. Last year, the Marin Institute did their own study claiming in California alone alcohol costs $38 billion each year. It’s as self-serving a document you’ll ever read. In the UK report, they claim alcohol costs Britain either £20 or £55 billion pounds (which is 32.5 billion dollars or 89.5 billion dollars). This should give you some idea about who whacked our anti-alcohol folks are. The are just over 61 million people in the UK, but almost 37 million in California, yet they assert that, using the UK’s lower figure, alcohol costs more than the entire nation of Great Britain, with roughly half the number of people. It’s just so easy to lie with statistics, and, more profoundly sad, even easier to get the government and the media to swallow those lies without questioning them. But in any event, take a look at Pete’s analysis.
In part 7, the government trots out yet another old favorite, the wolf in sheep’s clothing that is the best way to reduce the harmful effects of alcohol is to reduce overall consumption. All we need to do to get rid of some people doing something we don’t like is make it illegal for everybody. Problem solved. Except that alcohol has been around since before the dawn of civilization and maybe 99.9% (full disclosure, I made that number up but the idea is that the vast majority) of people enjoy the occasional without ruining their lives, their loved ones, their careers, or even their livers. And numerous medical studies confirm a wide range of health benefits, not least of which is the fact that people who drink alcohol in moderation tend to outlive those who never touch the stuff.
In the case of the UK report, they claim to be advising just toward reducing consumption, but to where? To what level? It’s already be shown beyond doubt that the recommended levels that the UK advises were made up wholesale, pulled out of thin air. Just the notion that recommended safe amounts are the same for any two men or women is patently absurd, yet that’s the standard. The other problem I see with arguing for less overall consumption is that it’s a slippery slope. Today’s reduction is tomorrow’s outright ban. If less is more, then none must be best of all, right?
Part eight brings up to the most pernicious argument of all, and the one that always sticks in my craw. “It’s for the children,” they cry. “Doesn’t anybody think of the children.” What the UK says, is Alcohol advertising and promotion must be tightly regulated because it encourages underage drinking. While the report says the opposite, the truth is drinking is declining in the UK, and I suspect that’s true here, too. But it’s Pete’ summary that is most telling, showing the chain of absurdity.
The HSC says drinking among children is increasing. But recent official figures suggest it is falling.
The HSC simply asserts that advertising encourages young people to drink. But there is no evidence of a causal link, despite people looking very hard to try to find one.
So they imply that there is a link between awareness of alcohol brands and propensity to drink underage, because they can prove awareness. But there’s no evidence of this either.
So after having spent a long time discussing the content of alcohol ads, they then say it’s not the content, but the quantity of it that has an effect. There’s no evidence of this either.
So in the end, they disregard testimony from advertising professionals, and simply choose to believe the testimony of people who want alcohol advertising to be banned, say it is damaging to children, but can produce no evidence to back up their assertion.
Which brings us to part 9, Pubs are a problem. If alcohol is a problem, then the places where people drink it must also be dens of inequity, mustn’t they?
To sum up, if this is new to you, start with Pete Brown’s Health Select Committee Report on Alcohol. Part One (of 10) was published Sunday, Alcohol consumption in the UK is increasing. On Monday, parts two, 25% of the UK population is drinking at hazardous or harmful levels, and three, Binge drinking is increasing, were published. Tuesday saw part four: Alcohol is becoming cheaper/more affordable, and yesterday part five, Alcohol related hospital admissions — and the cost of alcohol to the NHS — are soaring, was published online. Overnight and today, part six, Alcohol abuse costs the country £55bn a year, part seven, The best way to reduce the harmful effects of alcohol is to reduce overall consumption, part eight, Alcohol advertising and promotion must be tightly regulated because it encourages underage drinking, and part nine, Pubs are a problem, went up. Once again, stay tuned. There’s one more part to go.