Friday, 26 June 2009

The slippery slope

In his inimitable style, the Filthy Smoker lets fly with both barrels at the anti-drink crusade demanded by the odious Professor Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians (strong language alert).

Gilmore says, “We need an international framework convention for alcohol control, similar to that on tobacco, as soon as possible, to put into practice the evidence-based measures needed to reduce alcohol-related harm,” and then adds, “The big message is treat alcohol like tobacco, not as a substance that is relatively benign except for those bad alcoholics. That is not true.” No such thing as moderate drinking, then.

So is anyone still seriously claiming that the smoking ban wasn’t a harbinger of anti-drink measures?

10 comments:

  1. Sure. Why not?

    Show me the anti-drink measure being harbinged.

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  2. I do remember telling a guy on the CAMRA forum that this would happen, and that tobacco control were distributing the template. I even provided links to prove it.

    IIRC, he said it would never happen.

    That was in April.

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  3. Beer Nut, the connection between anti-tobacco and anti-alcohol measures, and using the former as a template for anti-drink measures, is self-evident from Gilmore's statements.

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  4. But this is just some crank having a go. It can't be termed an anti-drink measure. It can barely be termed a proposed anti-drink measure.

    It's just some neo-prohibitionist making noises.

    Show me the anti-drink measures which have been harbinged by the smoking ban. Real ones, for preference.

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  5. Well, I hardly think the President of the Royal College of Physicians can be dismissed as a crank. And, as is clear from Gilmore's words, what we are now seeing is the template of tobacco control – which it must be admitted has enjoyed great success – consciously applied to alcohol control. The bansturbators are explicitly making the connection themselves, so those at the receiving end need to open their eyes. Those who cannot see a connection between the smoking ban and present and future anti-alcohol measures are deluding themselves. They are two sides of the same coin.

    What have we seen so far? Well, quite a lot actually. Raising alcohol duties well above inflation. Promulgating dishonest and unscientific consumption guidelines deliberately set below typical levels of "moderate" consumption. Over-zealous application of unnecessary laws against drinking in public. Minimum pricing at a level that would significantly raise the price of mainstream off-trade drinks looking a genuine possibility. And we're likely to see a lot more if Gilmore and his cronies get the ear of policy-makers. But the objective is not Prohibition, but "denormalisation" – to make the consumption of alcohol be seen as something outside the boundaries of acceptable behaviour in polite society.

    This, of course, is a slow cumulative process, each step of which may in isolation appear reasonable to many, but taken as a whole over a period of time dramatically changes the entire landscape. Compare the climate of legal restriction and social acceptability of smoking fifteen years ago with that applying now. And then imagine a future world in which alcoholic drinks won't be banned, but will be much more expensive, harder to get hold of, the opportunities to drink them restricted and even moderate consumption widely viewed as a social evil.

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  6. - Raising alcohol duties well above inflation
    - Doesn't this pre-date the smoking ban?

    - Promulgating dishonest and unscientific consumption guidelines deliberately set below typical levels of "moderate" consumption
    - This definitely pre-dates the smoking ban. I don't recall any safe moderate level of smoking being promulgated so I don't think your template argument stands up here.

    - Over-zealous application of unnecessary laws against drinking in public.
    - Maybe it's just the part of the UK where I'm from, but we had this well before the workplace smoking ban arrived.

    - Minimum pricing at a level that would significantly raise the price of mainstream off-trade drinks looking a genuine possibility
    - Isn't the largest drinkers' organisation in the country supporting this policy?

    - And we're likely to see a lot more if Gilmore and his cronies get the ear of policy-makers
    - "If" indeed. Doctors like him have been banging on about drink for eons. They won't stop neither. Neither have the anti-tobacco lobby stopped banging on. If lobbyists banging on about stuff are a problem for you then I'm sorry: you're doomed to a life of high blood pressure unrelated to the drinking and smoking.

    - But the objective is not Prohibition, but "denormalisation" – to make the consumption of alcohol be seen as something outside the boundaries of acceptable behaviour in polite society.
    - Paranoid fantasy / persecution complex. Got any evidence for that humdinger, or are you afriad the Whitehall gnomes will bundle you away if you reveal it?

    - Compare the climate of legal restriction and social acceptability of smoking fifteen years ago with that applying now
    - I know; isn't it great? It was society what changed, though; it wasn't forced upon us by the gnomes. Attitudes to smoking changed across the developed world: this isn't just the government of your little country; it's happening in all our little countries. And it's coming from the people.

    - imagine a future world in which alcoholic drinks won't be banned, but will be much more expensive, harder to get hold of, the opportunities to drink them restricted
    - If you visited Ireland or Scandinavia you'd think you were already there; visitors to the UK from France, Spain or Italy probably think you're already there.

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  7. Beer Nut: You are very blinkered if you can't see what PB is talking about. As a smoker, I was blinkered too a while back, but have seen all the same measures that are currently being targeted at drink used towards people such as me.

    I enjoy smoking, yet I am told I don't. I am classed as someone
    who 'has difficulty quitting', despite never having tried. I don't enjoy it apparently, I am addicted therefore I need help. Help which I have never asked for and don't want.

    The issue with drinking is following the same path. Whether any of it pre-dates the smoking ban is irrelevant seeing as charities such as CRUK and the BHF have dedicated alcohol and tobacco control departments. They are using the same template for both.

    In answer to your points above:

    1) No, prior to the smoking ban, alcohol duties had never been raised twice in one year. Alistair Darling did that to beer duty in December by lumping it in with tobacco as exempt from the reduction in VAT. When VAT goes back to normal levels, the extra duty will not be reduced.

    2) Again, no it doesn't pre-date the smoking ban. The arbitrary 'unit' classifications were changed to classify drinks as more dangerous than previously claimed (which was still bullshit) after the smoking ban.

    3) The Times reported the other day that 100 new non-drinking zones are being enacted every year. Not for anti-social drinking, but for all drinking. Picnics, barbecues, you name it.

    The ban on drinking on London transport happened last year. To tackle anti-social behaviour apparently, yet laws have always existed to counteract that. Those being anti-social will be unaffected, it's only the law-abiding who will suffer.

    They surely must have spotted this? No?

    4) Drinks organisations are still in the period of appeasement. This is why I rail against them. Just because they back it, doesn't make it right. They are not seeing the danger, as smokers didn't.

    Again, other laws are available for tackling excess, but the goal is denormalisation.

    5) This one is rather baffling. You say that an anti-drink crusader is a nutter and imply he won't be listened to, while comparing it to anti-tobacco still 'banging on'. Christ! Wake up mate. That is exactly what should worry you. These people won't stop.

    Ignore Gilmour if you like, but he is backed by government money and is Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance. Part of which is the Alliance House Foundation, a fake charity who used to be called the Temperance Society and whose web-site states that they wish "to spread the principles of total abstinence from alcoholic drinks".

    6) Proof? Yes, from Liam Donaldson in March.

    Easy access to cheap alcohol is “killing us as never before” and must be curbed with tough licensing laws, price rises and a shift in public opinion that makes being drunk as unacceptable as smoking, the Chief Medical Officer has warned.

    In a radio interview on Radio 5Live (Simon Mayo), he talked of denormalising alcohol consumption.

    Hardly a fantasy on the part of PB.

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  8. 7) Exactly the problem with those who like a drink. You are quite happy that smoking is frowned upon but cannot see that you are next. Good Lord, if you can't see the shitstorm coming your way, you really are deluded.

    The public were guided in their view of tobacco by government policy, not just in this country but elsewhere. It took a long time but they got there because people are gullible.

    Smokers up and down the country are dutifully walking outside or just staying home because they are told they are disgusting. If you truly believe drinkers to have any more of a spine against relentless health prpaganda, you are very much an optimist.

    8) Yep, some countries are worse, some are better. Would you not be unhappy though if your country decided it wanted to be the most draconian in the world, as seems to be the case?

    You're a beer nut, you're supposed to be on our side, yet your hatred of smoking is blinding you to the obvious march of these prohibitionists.

    You do know, don't you, that you don't have to agree with amending the smoking ban to fight against the same methods being used against your preferred vice?

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  9. It's really quite irrelevant whether any of these things were first mooted before or after the smoking ban – the point is that there are many parallels between the two and the relationship between them is explicitly admitted by their proponents. It is certainly the case, though, as DP points out, that the intensity of anti-alcohol activity and coat-trailing has markedly increased since the ban, as if, having won one victory, forces are freed up to engage in a different campaign.

    And it happens insidiously – they know very well that cultural changes and legislation have to keep in step with each other. A good example is the proposed mandatory code for licensed premises. As I've said before, much of this is in itself reasonable, and I'm not going to man the barricades to defend speed drinking competitions. But this will mean pubs and clubs operating under a far tighter code of legal restriction than they ever have done in the past.

    I have noticed myself that over the last ten or so years that people in general are noticeably more reluctant to drink alcohol on occasions such as work functions and club and society meetings, even when not driving. This is a clear indication of the denormalisation process taking hold. It is a far more healthy drinking culture when drinking in moderation is accepted as part of the social fabric rather than when people save it up for a weekend blowout.

    Obviously different countries have very different regulatory regimes for alcohol, but I don't think it would be remotely a good idea if the UK or Ireland were to become more like Norway and less like Spain.

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  10. You're a beer nut, you're supposed to be on our side, yet your hatred of smoking is blinding you to the obvious march of these prohibitionists.

    As a very happy smoker, who has never been told he's having trouble quitting, I'm not sure what to make of this comment.

    For the record I don't have a hatred of smoking: I just prefer to fight for the right to only inhale my tobacco of choice, and to have it come from right end. If pubs insisted on pouring the slop tray over me, I'd be a bit annoyed at that, but it wouldn't make me anti-drinking.

    You do know, don't you, that you don't have to agree with amending the smoking ban to fight against the same methods being used against your preferred vice?

    I do. I just see dragging the smoking aspect in as clouding the issue (no pun intended). One battle at a time.

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