Saturday, 9 January 2016

No hiding place

Over the past few days, the media have been full of stories about the decision of the UK’s Chief Medical Officer to reduce the recommended maximum levels of alcohol consumption, and to state explicitly that no level can be considered “safe”. This has been thoroughly demolished by Christopher Snowdon, and there’s little I can add to that.

The subject has also attracted the ire of some of our most respected newspaper columnists. In the Guardian, Simon Jenkins wrote that The state needs to butt out of Britain’s drinking habits, concluding by saying “France has the best government guidance on alcohol consumption. It has none.” And this surely is the nub of the matter:

Everything we do in life is risky, including much that some people enjoy and others deplore. Most daily risks we assess and accept for ourselves. We would be furious if Whitehall laid down risk and safety limits for riding horses, climbing mountains, eating foreign food and playing rugby. All involve far greater danger than marginal changes in consuming alcohol.
Then, in today’s Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore has urged Don’t let the public health zealots demonise us innocent drinkers, in which he makes this crucial point:
But something more important is being missed. These guidelines are not intended to stand alone. They are twists of a ratchet. Public health zealots, like environmentalist ones, work always to construct a net of public policies that will eventually ensnare whatever group it is they dislike.

The model in their minds is tobacco. Having succeeded in virtually outlawing smoking, they want to do the same with alcohol. If they can create the public “fact” that there is no such thing as safe drinking, they can then attack everyone who brews, distils, makes wine, or runs a pub, club or restaurant, for pushing something which is unsafe.

If there is no safe level of consumption, then producers and retailers of alcohol are denied any cloak of respectability. They are no longer valued corporate citizens: they are engaged in a “toxic trade”.

JTI Gallaher are currently in the process of closing down a large cigarette factory in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, which employed 800 people. Local MP Ian Paisley Jr has protested about the economic blight this will produce. But a lot of people will think “I’m sorry people are losing their jobs, but maybe in the long term we’d be better off without that.”

Brewers, distillers, cidermakers, wineries, pubs, bars, off-licences – one day, in the not too distant future, that could be you.


  1. Within a generation it will be them.

    It ain't just the cheap supermarket plonk lover they are after. It's your pongy bitter and laughably "responsible" pubs they are gunning for too.

    How on earth is a pub responsible if it serves me that second pint of wifebeater?

  2. The on-trade will be first in line, because it's more obvious and you can't hide it or stockpile it.

    You'll still be able to go down to your local Systembolaget store, show your ration card and get your weekly ration of 8 cans of Carling.

    Obviously there will be a note on your medical records saying "severe problem drinker".

  3. Perhaps I am being naïve, but I really don’t understand the motives of these Public Health zealots. If they are acting out of a genuine concern for people whose lives, and health, are affected by heavy drinking, then fair enough; although even then there is no need to penalise the sensible majority for the actions of a small group of problem drinkers.

    However if, as seems likely, they are acting out of pure spite, then I cannot think of a more twisted and pitiful group of people.

    Some excellent points here Mudge, and I would agree that you, and others, have identified a worrying trend. An insidious drip, drip effect will unfortunately, in the long term, bring about the result these prohibitionists are after. This is especially true given the sheep-like behaviour of much of the population, and their total unwillingness to question anything that is put in front of them – especially if it requires them to think!

  4. Perhaps I am being naïve, but I really don’t understand the motives of these Public Health zealots.

    H L Mencken defined it thus:

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

    The zealots responsible for the blanket smoking bans contrived them purely because they don't like smoking or smokers. So they made up the 'science' to lobby government with, and presto! - smoking bans! And they will do the same with alcohol, using the same salami-slice approach as the tobacco control template. They don't need facts; they can make those up as they go along. Tobacco Control did, and so will (the yet to be articulated) Alcohol Control.

    You see, among the anti-smoking and anti-drinking clique nobody enjoys smoking or drinking, and as a result they lack any understanding of why people smoke or drink. To them, the only reason can be because those degenerates are addicted. They totally fail to understand that there can be benefits and enjoyment gained from both smoking and drinking. For them, there are only detrimental aspects and health hazards. They lack the ability to accept that for many people, all life is a trade-off between potential risk and pleasure gained, and many of us would rather a (possibly) slightly shorter life filled with joy and bonhomie than a (possibly) longer life lived as an ascetic.

  5. I added these words of wisdom from the great Mark twain at the end of my comment, but it was obviously too long, so I'll put them in another comment box here:

    “The Moral Statistician.”
    Originally published in Sketches, Old and New, 1893

    “I don’t want any of your statistics; I took your whole batch and lit my pipe with it.

    I hate your kind of people. You are always ciphering out how much a man’s health is injured, and how much his intellect is impaired, and how many pitiful dollars and cents he wastes in the course of ninety-two years’ indulgence in the fatal practice of smoking; and in the equally fatal practice of drinking coffee; and in playing billiards occasionally; and in taking a glass of wine at dinner, etc. etc. And you are always figuring out how many women have been burned to death because of the dangerous fashion of wearing expansive hoops, etc. etc. You never see more than one side of the question.

    You are blind to the fact that most old men in America smoke and drink coffee, although, according to your theory, they ought to have died young; and that hearty old Englishmen drink wine and survive it, and portly old Dutchmen both drink and smoke freely, and yet grow older and fatter all the time. And you never try to find out how much solid comfort, relaxation, and enjoyment a man derives from smoking in the course of a lifetime (which is worth ten times the money he would save by letting it alone), nor the appalling aggregate of happiness lost in a lifetime by your kind of people from not smoking. Of course you can save money by denying yourself all those little vicious enjoyments for fifty years; but then what can you do with it? What use can you put it to? Money can’t save your infinitesimal soul. All the use that money can be put to is to purchase comfort and enjoyment in this life; therefore, as you are an enemy to comfort and enjoyment where is the use of accumulating cash?

    It won’t do for you to say that you can use it to better purpose in furnishing a good table, and in charities, and in supporting tract societies, because you know yourself that you people who have no petty vices are never known to give away a cent, and that you stint yourselves so in the matter of food that you are always feeble and hungry. And you never dare to laugh in the daytime for fear some poor wretch, seeing you in a good humor, will try to borrow a dollar of you; and in church you are always down on your knees, with your ears buried in the cushion, when the contribution-box comes around; and you never give the revenue officers a full statement of your income.

    Now you know all these things yourself, don’t you? Very well, then, what is the use of your stringing out your miserable lives to a lean and withered old age? What is the use of your saving money that is so utterly worthless to you? In a word, why don’t you go off somewhere and die, and not be always trying to seduce people into becoming as ornery and unlovable as you are yourselves, by your villainous “moral statistics”?”

  6. @Paul. I think it's insulting to describe people as sheep. People don't blindly follow the herd.

    People do wish to fit in with society and accept the prevailing moral climate, however. This is an act of thought, not stupidity.

    The new guidelines will have an effect on the young more than the old and time will provide the direction of travel.

    The puritans know they will not stop you boozing, but they do know that come the time your replacement will not be a boozer.

    Pubs will still exist when we all go to Mudgies wake and discover he's left his vast fortune to the cats home and not even provided a free bar and plate of scotch eggs for us, his pals. My wake might well be a tea drinking affair with looks of disapproval at those that partake of the free grog old Cookie has put on.

  7. Thank-you nisakiman, for attempting to explain what motivates the “Public Health Zealots”, who are determined on trying to control our lives. I also rather like the contribution from Mark Twain; someone who enriched the English language with many wise quotes, and also someone not prepared to suffer fools gladly.

    The following quote of his sums up quite nicely, the current controversy regarding the CMO’s pronouncement. “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

  8. I disagree, Cookie. People are like sheep; in fact most have a herd mentality. They feel safe inside the pen, conforming with the rest of the flock. It’s sometimes a brave man who sticks his head above the parapet or, heaven forbid, attempts to leave the herd.

  9. @Cookie Yes, it is insulting to compare people to sheep - insulting to the sheep

  10. I agree with Paul - most people, especially in a work-related context, tend to go along with the herd.

    I tend to feel this attitude of mind stems not from malevolence, but from a genuine, if misplaced, belief, that people would be better off if they did what they were told by those with more knowledge rather than being left to their own devices.

    Another excellent quotation on this is from C. S. Lewis:

    “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

  11. I just wonder when they have outlawed all drinking and saved the NHS the 2.5 billion quid a year that gets spent on alcohol related illness/injury (spurious number as we all know given that spraining your ankle having had a pint of ordinary counts as an 'alcohol related injury'), where they are going to get the 5.5 billion contributed in excise and VAT by the alcohol industry?

  12. I reckon that the internet has turned a lot of youngsters off drink - mainly photographs of drunken antics on social media being a very bad idea. That reduction has been incorrectly attributed to health campaigns who will obviously carry on because it's a nice job for a number of people.

  13. of course, gents. it is others that are the sheep. never you chaps ;)

  14. "I tend to feel this attitude of mind stems not from malevolence, but from a genuine, if misplaced, belief, that people would be better off if they did what they were told by those with more knowledge rather than being left to their own devices."

    Yes Curm. I come across such comments quite frequently. These people will tend to consider themselves fervently "anti fascist", but are actually supporters of fascism, in which the individual is subservient to the state.


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