Saturday, 9 June 2012

Glass half empty

It has long been a source of frustration for the “health” lobby that they are unable to assert that any quantity of alcohol above zero is dangerous. Indeed, there’s plenty of evidence that moderate drinking results in better health outcomes than total abstention.

However, new research claims that the supposed health benefits of alcohol can be gained from drinking a mere three units a week, and if this became the official consumption guideline for “safe drinking” it could save 4,500 lives a year.

It has never struck me that the argument that alcohol has health benefits is the best one to use in its defence – surely people should be drinking because they enjoy it (and know that, unless done consistently to excess, it isn’t really harmful), not forcing it down like tablets.

And, if this becomes the official message, it will remove the figleaf from those who claim that responsible drinking is compatible with a “healthy lifestyle”. If you accept this definition, it certainly isn’t. A pint and a half a week? That’s hardly worth bothering with, and certainly wouldn’t keep many pubs open.

The brewers, winemakers and distillers, and the likes of CAMRA, will be left standing exactly where the tobacco industry are today.


  1. “The brewers, winemakers and distillers, and the likes of CAMRA, will be left standing exactly where the tobacco industry are today.”

    British American Tobacco Interim Management Statement for the 3 months ended 31 March 2012:

    Good revenue growth of 6% at constant rates of exchange.
    Revenue growth of 4% at current rates of exchange.
    Volumes from subsidiaries increased by 1.3% to 166 billion, organic volumes increased by 0.7%.
    Global Drive Brand volumes grew by 6%.

    The summary states British American Tobacco has “performed well” in the period.

    Presumably you are therefore fairly optimistic about brewers, winemakers, distillers and CAMRA.

  2. Yes, but in this country they are excluded from all public consultations and cannot claim that consumption of their product is compatible with a healthy lifestyle.

  3. And despite that, they are, in their own words, performing well, which is not what you implied. By the way, I don't believe smoking is generally compatible with a healthy lifestyle. Do you? There are healthy and fit people who smoke, but no one seriously suggests the two activities are compatible; more a case of fitness and exercise providing some compensation for the effects of smoking.

  4. Well, it'll be pubs that would potentially bear the brunt (as usual).

    And whatever you think of smoking in comparison to drinking Nev, I doubt the puritans would make too much of a distinction when it comes to the crunch. I mean, they'd hardly likely to revise the recommended daily unit intake upwards. They've committed themselves. No, drinkers have definitely got a fight on their hands now. They must hope and pray that drinks companies won't be gagged and excluded from consultation like the tobacco industry has. Better still, wake up and start whingeing, unlike the vast majority of smokers.

  5. I think proglodyte will find that most of BAT "doing well" is probably to do with profit derived from "developing markets" in emerging economies such as the Indian sub-continent and China ... not from its UK sales ...

  6. I like the way that, true to form. you worked another little pop at CAMRA in there. Why on earth do you remain a member?

  7. I doubt if 4500 lives could be saved at all and anyway the misery imposed would outweigh that.

    It is quite bizarre really. Unless I have this wrong, it implies that people drinking within the current guidelines have within their cohort 4500 who would otherwise die of alcohol. Dodgy and unprovable. Stopping eating food would in theory save thousands of lives from food poisoning. (If it wasn't for the inconvenient fact that it would kill you.)

    Maybe we should just ignore all this rubbish and shout that we drink because we like it and will take the risk, so just piss off. Would be no worse than trying to reach an accommodation. That won't happen.

    Oh and I often find your stuff reasonably persuasive until you gratuitously have a pop about CAMRA.

  8. Actually I should have said "have within their cohort 4500 who are going to die through alcohol."

  9. You are confusing a reference to CAMRA with a criticism of CAMRA, gents. It isn't a criticism to point out that, if the official message becomes that there is, in effect, no safe level of alcohol consumption, the environment in which the organisation operates will be radically transformed, and not for the better.

    On a personal level obviously many people will say "fuck it, I'll drink what I want", but if they turn their backs on the sphere of public policy their opportunities to do so will become progressively more constrained.

  10. Yes, but this constant drip of disobliging comments about and references to CAMRA you make here, there and everywhere - well, it's not unlike what you see as attempts by others to denormalise alcohol isn't it?

  11. CAMRA was mentioned once alongside whole groups of industry. It's a tad sensitive to see that as a pop at the beard club.

    Regarding the other 99% of the post, for sure. The biggest threat to a free Englishmans right to enjoy a drink is the gradual denormalisation of regular and moderate consumption.

  12. Nev, tobacco companies are doing well in China and India. They have given up on the UK. I don't think Pale Ale is about to become big in China.


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