Tuesday 27 September 2011

Light begins to dawn?

The Morning Advertiser reports that CAMRA has called upon the government to revise the official advice on daily alcohol units.

In its submission to the Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry into alcohol guidelines, the consumer organisation argued that the current guidelines fail to take into account the latest medical evidence.

CAMRA also claims that the Government is failing to adequately communicate the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption.
Is this a belated recognition that more has to be done to resist the tide of pseudo-scientific anti-alcohol claptrap, especially when the underlying message put across by the anti-drink lobby is increasingly moving towards “there is no safe level of alcohol”?

It is significant that CAMRA also said:
The guidelines seem to portray the recommended allowance as an absolute upper limit, which is not the case. There is, in fact, a wide gap between the safe recommended limit and the point where drinking will have a severe health impact.
That is one of the key problems with the current advice. The guidelines themselves are not bad advice as such, except in terms of needless over-caution, but it often seems to be assumed that exceeding them leads to falling off a cliff of risk. This is on a par with suggesting that only eating four portions of fruit and veg a day will inevitably lead to contracting scurvy.

It also results in skewed priorities in public policy, with health campaigns often giving the impression of trying to make responsible people drinking 30 or 40 units a week feel guilty, while in effect washing their hands of those drinking at genuinely dangerous levels of 100 units a week or more.


  1. Can you afford to fall out with Don Shenker? He might stop viewing pubs as responsible and controlled if you do.

  2. CAMRA really do not understand or see the bigger picture. The World Health Organisation has a 'hit list' of lifestyle choices that it would like to see denormalised;

    1. Nicotine use
    2. Alcohol use
    3. Eating 'unhealthy' food

    First up was nicotine. For years 'junk science' had been floating about the dangers of passive smoking. In 2006 came the Health Act and subsequent smoking bans which CAMRA embraced with open arms.

    Many traditional pubs were closing because many smokers chose to stay at home and take advantage of the cheaper off sales and the warmth of their living rooms.

    Did CAMRA mourn the pubs that were being forced to close? No, they told them to diversify, find a USP, sell cask ale, sell food, allow kids etc..

    When pubs are no longer being used by social drinkers, they are no longer pubs in the traditional sense - a place for adults to relax and enjoy each others company.

    So the traditional pubs go, most social drinkers buy supermarket beer and stay at home drinking anti-socially. Alcohol consumption then becomes an anti-social activity,,,what comes next? I'll let the reader decide.

    CAMRA shot themselves in the foot 5 years ago and the gangrene is starting to set in. If they honestly think that the Government will take any notice of this plea, they are living in cloud cuckoo land.

    Russell VR Ord

  3. Belated, perhaps, but still a very welcome step, and one I've pressing them to take for some time.

    Camra aren't Libertarian tub-thunpers, so there isn't a "bigger picture" that involves the WHO.

  4. Let's not forget that 5 years before these so called 'safe weekly limits' were plucked out of thin air, the 'safe weekly limits' were between 50-55 for men. No one knows why they were halved, not even the people who did it!

  5. Tyson - Not taking any credit but I suggested similar to the Review Team of which I was a part.

  6. I think Russell has summarised the current situation very well. My view is that alcohol consumption is unlikely to to change much whatever the guidelines. Nothing else has the same pleasant effects for the moderate drinker and there will always be alcoholics. CAMRA's problem is that this approximately constant consumption is shifting more to the home.

  7. Slight variation but nevermind.

    Anyone read "Imbiber" ? The chap who wrote in the last edition about his exploits in visting some 50 odd pubs over the weekend of the CAMRA AGM in Sheffield (not sure he actually attended of the AGM) must have consumed 2-3 weeks units in 2 and a bit days - is that safe ?

  8. Did he say whether he drank pints or halves? ;-)

    When CAMRA goes on about responsible drinking, I do sometimes wonder whether some of its activities might provide a bit of a hostage to fortune to the anti-drink lobby...

  9. Tyson noted...
    Camra aren't Libertarian tub-thunpers, so there isn't a "bigger picture" that involves the WHO."

    I am unclear what a "Libertarian tub-thunper" is. Are CAMRA aware of the WHO NCD agenda and it's impact on National policy making?

    Unfortunately CAMRA seem to be discussing the issue on the wrong terrain. They have bought into the idea of 'Safe Limits' which means they will be arguing over amounts. So we go step by logical step from todays limit to zero (there is of course 'no safe level of alcohol').

    Of course they will congratulate themselves when they stop the limit going to 10 units a week and the alcohol content to 2.5% but it will be short lived.

    Russell makes some good points. Perhaps CAMRA do need to widen their field of vision.

  10. Yes - it's just another example of how our government seems to work - adressing issues with a broad stroke and ending up heavy-handed. There is 'shades of gray' in these issues that usually just aren't taken into account. Look at the rise in Beer Tax for stronger beers, for example. Unfair on moderate drinkers of stronger beers; and not responsible for 'park-bench' drinking.

  11. Russel is right. CAMRA have just woken up to the fact (despite the warnings at the time) that they are next in line after the smokers, and now find themselves in the situation of fighting a rearguard action. Too little too late, I fear.

    And as a footnote, I also fear that the vapers will be fighting a losing battle, their best arguments notwithstanding. As we all now know, this has nothing to do with health, and everything to do with the New Puritanism. And to quote Mencken:

    "Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."

    Enjoying life is no longer on the agenda. We're entering the age of sackcloth and ashes. And if we can indulge in a bit of self-flagellation too, so much the better.


Comments, especially on older posts, may require prior approval by the blog owner. See here for details of my comment policy.

Please register an account to comment. Unregistered comments will generally be rejected unless I recognise the author. If you want to comment using an unregistered ID, you will need to tell me something about yourself.