Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Doctors still lying about alcohol

(nb. I am not the Devil's Kitchen)

In the past few weeks I have been mentioning some of the spurious news stories being churned out by the Alcohol Health Alliance which have kept alcohol at the top of the media agenda. I suggested that... 
This is not a coincidence, this is a co-ordinated effort which, I suspect, will come to a head when MPs return to Parliament in October. At every turn there is Don Shenker, Ian bastard Gilmore and all the rest of the tax-it, ban-it, cover-it-up brigade. 

There is definitely something afoot.

Indeed there was something afoot. Today, slightly earlier than I anticipated, that 'something' arrived, in the form of a 58-page document produced by the British Medical Association and titled 'Under the influence - the damaging effect of alcohol marketing on young people'. But it's not just about marketing and it certainly isn't just about young people (who - how many times must it be said? - are not allowed to fucking drink anyway). 

Sure enough, on page 2:
This publication has been endorsed by the Alcohol Health Alliance UK.

You can bet it has, seeing as the headline proposal is, as The Sun put it:
Ban all booze ads, say medics

But the headline proposal is the least of it. A total ban on alcohol advertising, marketing and sponsorship is just one element of the BMA's nine-point plan - a plan that should remove any doubt that drinking has become the new smoking. Of particular note are:

  • Minimum price levels enforced by law
  • Annual, above inflation tax rises on alcohol
  • Reduction in licensing hours for pubs and off-licenses
  • Restriction on the number of premises that can sell alcohol
  • The complete prohibition of any drinks that are deemed to "appeal to young people more than adults"
  • Windfall tax on the alcohol industry, using the money to set up yet another "public health body to oversee alcohol related, health promotion and policy advice."

The lead author of this report is one Professor Gerard Hastings, who is not qualified to practise medicine but who does have a PhD in Social Marketing from the University of Strathclyde. He is a member of fake charity Alcohol Focus Scotland, and he is well-versed in the tactics of neo-prohibitionism from his time working for the Cancer Research UK Centre for Tobacco Control Research. 

Does he sound like the sort of bastard who would punish the many for the sins of the few? Darn right, he does.
While it is important to target interventions at people facing particular problems with their drinking, an evidence-based policy should aim to lower total alcohol consumption in the population as a whole

Does he sound like the kind of authoritarian, slippery-slope sliding son-of-a-bitch who would apply every trick used against smokers to victimise drinkers? I believe he does.
As with tobacco control policies, reducing alcohol-related harm in the UK requires a comprehensive strategy that promotes individual behaviour change across society as a whole

Is he the kind of person to demonise the drinks industry? Why, of course.
The vested interest of the industry in the development of effective alcohol control policies is evident. As with tobacco, putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop – or at least putting him on a par with the farmer – is a dangerous idea.

If you have time, I recommend reading the whole thing. It's mind-blowing how far these quacks want to go to make alcohol (as they put it) "a little less normal". Fanaticism, paranoia and a total inability to recognise personal liberty pervades its every page. Section 4, for example, is hysterically titled 'The Web of Alcohol Marketing Promotion' (ooh!) and includes this gem:
This web becomes even more tangled when indirect media references are taken into consideration – from soap opera’s set in pubs, through the plethora of drinks references on greetings cards to radio DJs bragging about their hangovers.

You know you're dealing with true zealots when they start seeing birthday cards and the Rover's Return as part of a 'web', but what is most shocking is just how many half-truths and outright lies are contained in this document. For example:

Alcohol consumption in the UK has increased rapidly in recent years

Er, not if by "recent years" you mean the last five years, as the report admits on page 9:
 the figures peaked in 2003-04

...over a third of adults regularly exceed the Government’s recommended guidelines

Only because you've changed the way you measure how much people drink. Besides, the guidelines were "plucked out of the air" in the first place.

the UK is among the heaviest alcohol consuming countries in Europe

In the UK, alcohol marketing and promotion is regulated via voluntary codes governing creative content.

No, as a spokesman for the Advertising Standards Agency has already pointed out:
"Contrary to the BMA’s report, the UK Advertising Codes are not voluntary. The codes are amongst the strictest in the world.

"The ASA rigorously enforces the rules and does not hesitate to take action if the rules have been broken."

alcohol is frequently used as a promotional tool – or loss leader – to attract customers into supermarkets.

So we keep being told, but has anyone actually seen it happen? I have never seen alcohol on sale below cost price and God knows I've looked. If it ever happens at all, it certainly does not happen "frequently." At best, this is a half-truth.

The difference between the retail price index and the alcohol price index has also fallen, meaning that the rate of increase of the price of alcoholic drinks, relative to all retail items, has decreased.

No, the opposite has happened. Since 1980, alcohol prices have risen 19.3% above the Retail Price Index (see p. 83 of this PDF from the Office of National Statistics). Have I mentioned that these people are liars yet?

Naturally, at the heart of this hideous illiberal crap is yet another scheme for the state to steal more money.
In order to reduce alcohol consumption among young people, the level of excise paid on alcohol should be increased

Suck. My. Balls.
This increased taxation would not only reduce consumption levels, but could also contribute much needed funding for public health research and education

Well, fancy that. It's another bunch of nest-feathering, rent-seeking, thieving, public sector cocksuckers who want to take your cash and spend it on themselves. Fuck right off, Alcohol Health Alliance - you're not getting one more penny from me. I'll kill myself with my own moonshine before I pay the wages of any more unelected puritans.

And finally, here's the BMA spokeswoman to remind us that doctors are still very confused about what their role is in society.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the head of BMA science and ethics, said: "The BMA is not anti-alcohol. As doctors our focus is to ensure that individuals drink sensibly so they do not put their health and lives in danger."

For which there is no more succinct reply than to quote from the Daily Mash:
Emma Bishop, a marketing executive from Twickenham, added: "How's about this? As an adult, I think a reasonable daily limit is me drinking as much as I fucking want.

"If it affects my work I'll get sacked. If it affects my relationships I'll be all lonely and sad.

"And as for my health, following a quick glance at my tax bill I've decided that the NHS will treat me and the government can keep its fucking opinions to itself."

 Amen to that.


Frank Davis said...

So it's going to be the drinkers standing outside the pubs next, eh?

manwiddicombe said...

Watch the Professor in action on vimeo talking about tobacco .. .. ..

Leg-iron said...

No smoking in pubs, and soon no drinking and no pies either.

But, of course, this won't affect the rate of pub closures at all and will make them much more pleasant places for non-drinkers to visit, and non-pie-eaters. In fact anyone who doesn't like to do anything at all is going to love going in there.

Best be quick though. There won't be any pubs at all before very long.

(if you're thinking 'ah, rubbish, it's targeted at problem drinkers and the quiet drinkers who don't offend anyone won't be affected', well, that's what they told the smokers once upon a time, you know. There will be no opt-out clause).

John B said...

But, of course, this won't affect the rate of pub closures at all

Actually, the proposals would probably reduce pub closures: they're aimed at reducing off-trade sales and sales of kid-friendly booze. Anything which cuts the boozer/home price differential should be a net benefit to the pub industry.

Naturally, at the heart of this hideous illiberal crap is yet another scheme for the state to steal more money.

Fairly sure it's more about forcing puritan Protestant morals on the rest of us, like pretty much all forms of drug prohibition. The extra money gained by doing so is just a bonus.

Anonymous said...

Why bother getting upset.

There's nothing you can do to beat these bastards. They are unstoppable. They exist soley to ban things, they never give up, even the terminator was less persistent than these tossers.

The likely outcome is that they will achieve a total victory and we descend into a new Cromwellian dark age. Our only hope then is that history repeats, the pendulum swings back, and we experience another enlightenment.

JuliaM said...

"...another bunch of nest-feathering, rent-seeking, thieving, public sector cocksuckers..."

Spot on. Ably assisted by their friends in the MSM...

Tim Atkinson said...

I thought the definition of an alcoholic was someone who drinks more than their doctor! Physician, heal thyself...

bnzss said...

Watch everyone fall for this one, heh.

Excellent post as usual.

Earthlet Nigel said...

There wouldn't be some kind of hidden agenda to appease the mozzies, and remove the temptation for them to drink.

Heresiarch said...

There was some pathetic spokesman for the drinks industry on the radio this lunchtime, saying "Of course we agree that it's necessary to reduce alcohol consumption, but there are better ways of going about it." If the businesses who stand to lose the most capitulate to these specious arguments so automatically, there really is no hope.

Xenophon said...

One hates to be boring, but the point made about 'rate of increase of alcohol cost decreasing' is actually correct. They say:

"The difference between the retail price index and the alcohol price index has also fallen, meaning that the 'rate of increase of the price of alcoholic drinks, relative to all retail items, has decreased'"

You say:

"No, the opposite has happened. Since 1980, alcohol prices have risen 19.3% above the Retail Price Index"

They do not say that 'alcohol prices have fallen' - merely that the rate of increase in alcohol prices has slowed - which is technically correct. Your enthusiasm for the fight has outstripped your analysis of the quoted piece...

Vlad the Inhaler said...

Then we watch the queues of MPs showing deep sympathy for unemployed brewery workers, sacked 'cos sales have fallen.

Just like that hypocrite Salmond, north o' the border.

The Filthy Smoker said...

Xenophon - boring's fine but are you sure you're right?
The full quote (p. 28 of the report) reads:

"In the UK, the affordability of alcohol increased by 69 per cent between 1980 and 2007 (NHS Information Centre 2008) because income has increased much faster than prices. The difference between the retail price index and the alcohol price index has also fallen, meaning that the rate of increase of the price of alcoholic drinks, relative to all retail items, has decreased."

But the affordability of all retail items in that period increased by 108% (see ONS link). And so "relative to all retail items" the price of alcohol has increased, not decreased.

Xenophon said...

Xenophon - boring's fine but are you sure you're right?

Think so - the problem is that the language used is so complex as to be unclear (deliberately, no doubt...) My point is that technically, they are correct - the 'rate of increase' has decreased, and they can plausibly make that statement from the given source. That does not, of course, mean that the price of alcohol is not still higher relative to other retail goods than it was at the start of the period. - it's just not getting 'even higher' quite so fast... They're not actually claiming its price has decreased relative to other goods, much as they would like to.

Or have I just drunk too much tonight??

Dick Puddlecote said...

"over a third of adults regularly exceed the Government’s recommended guidelines"

I read the entire fly-infested defecation today and this is part of the wall of deceit they have peppered it with.

Heavy drinkers, according to the BMA, are those who have drunk 8 units for men, or 6 units for women ... on one day in the past week.

You're now a heavy drinker if you drink 3 pints once a week. So they talk about a massive percentage (about 24% IIRC) of heavy - therefore 'problem' - drinkers.

It fools our dense as fuck MPs though, don't it?

David Davis (Libertarian Alliance) said...

If people like, I will produce a document explaining two things:-

(1) How to produce effectively and profitably unlimited amounts of beer and wine at home, until they ban the individual purchase of barley grain and berries of all kinds,

(2) How to safely and profitable distil one's own spirits from most kinds of ordinary fermented filtrate, using only household items legally available.

If I did this, I think we will soon find the sale and/or possession of chemical glassware, bentonite, ammonium phosphate, sugar and plastic tubing to be made illegal.

Anonymous said...

Now here's an idea!

Why not set up a profession where the members would dedicate their careers to treating sick people.

They wouldn't play politics or social engineering - they'd just look after people who were ill, and do their best to help them recover.

And we could call these people "doctors".

Surprising that no one seems to have thought of this before.

David Davis (Libertarian Alliance) said...

We could of course use even potatoes. They can't make potato-possession illegal yet, since we are all commanded to eat three boiled egg-sized ones per day, without salt.

The poteen thus produced could be easily flavoured with stuff like fruit squashes, to make it more palatable to Young People. Roughly speaking, all fresh spirits distil over and condense at approximately 71% alcohol, or about 144-deg proof. That should be all right for the young people on a good night out.

We poor old sad buggers will be of course able to stomach the unadulterated stuff.

if the guvmmint wants to force people to the expedient of making their own beer and hooch, it is going the right way about it, and will lose excise duty accordingly.

Or perhaps it's all a scam to "get more police on the streets", eh?

Unknown said...

The fuckers.

The fuckers.

OK I've had a drink tonight.

The fuckers.

Thortung The Terrible said...

Britich Meddling Association would be more accurate.

stevie said...

Jesus i fuckin hate this cunt of a country. Just ban everything and i will go and die in a cold dark cave. Oh Hang On,could that be what they want?

Leg-iron said...

In my student days, the local homebrew shop was run by The Zombie, a man with neon-white skin covered in cracks who you could tell had tried every possible permutation of alcohol and probably the occasional bottle of formalin.

He told us how to make wine out of all sorts of things.Including used teabags.

Tea wine was dreadful. We went back and said so. He told us how to fix it.

Freeze it in trays, he said. Let it partially thaw and strain off the ice. Alcohol thaws before water, so it concentrates the stuff and most of the dreadful taste is water-soluble so stays in the ice.

We ended up with a sort of tea brandy. It was palatable and pretty strong.

So you don't need a still to get above wine-strength. Just a freezer. It might not reach spirit strength but it's a good compromise.

Rob said...

I have had three pints of beer tonight, at 3.8%. They were lovely. I didn't fight anyone, I didn't piss in the street, I didn't yell abuse at any police officers (sadly, I saw none), I haven't yet set fire to my flat.

Yet apparently I am a heavy drinker and a menace to society.

When I was growing up the men drank like fucking fishes. They are still alive. They look older, but then it was thirty years ago. Some of them still drink like fishes. They are still very much alive.

When doctors stop drinking, I'll take notice. Until then, have the balls to come out and honestly state your intention that you are prohibitionists (you are) or just fuck off. You showed your hand with smoking; I'm not a smoker, but you aren't going to fool me with the same trick.

I thought it was sad enough that I couldn't trust the police any more. Not being able to trust the fucking BMA?

Ian B said...

Xenophon's right. It's deliberately confusing language. But what they're saying mathematically (I admit to being a bit rusty here) is that the difference between the first derivative of alcohol price and the first derivative of general goods price has lessened. That's not a statistic that is much use, but presented this way it appears to be.

Vova said...

I don't think they have a clue about mathematics or give a toss for accuracy - they're just lying to help make their case. By the way - the concept of price availability is seriously flawed - there is a big difference between price elsticity and income elasticity of demand for alcohol. What they're saying boils down to 'people have too much money and they're spending it on drink the tossers'. See

Ian Simcox said...

"This increased taxation would not only reduce consumption levels, but could also contribute much needed funding for public health research and education"

No it wouldn't, you berk. Unless he really believes we are on the left hand side of the Laffer curve with alcohol tax, but I don't think there's anyone who thinks that.

We can sort drink problems if we can getting drinkers back INTO pubs. People shouldn't be able to buy alcohol in the supermarket cheaper than they can in a pub. Landlords keep people from getting too drunk. The problem is people buying 24 packs in the supermarket and downing them before going out.

sid n coke please said...

There are hundreds of expert wine , spirit and beer brewers who have worked in the middle east so there will be a huge pool of knowledge to be tapped should the authorities try to ban alcohol.
Sid n coke on my patio in Jeddah. Watching the sun go down and listening to the local fuckwits being called to prayer.
Lovely memories.

Earthlet Nigel said...

The whole bloody report is disingenuous, and weighted to their point of view. Any structured counter argument will be dismissed or bluntly ignored.

They are cunts of the highest order, though this word is a woefully inadequate noun for many of them.

Drinking in their eyes is quite patetly the new smoking, and obesity is lined up in their shooting gallery too, however given that a good few public servants (sic) fall into this category as so defined by them, it may result in infighting, lovely.

Julie said...

Well, sorry to sound a note of dissent here, but I think a reining in of the drinks industry is long overdue. Drinking's a big laugh until you are actually trying to deal with someone who has a drink problem and the misery that goes with that. I'm glad that the Scottish government has ensured that supermarkets can no longer scatter drink all over the store to any corner where a recovering alcoholic might be lurking away from the drinks section. I'm also glad that they're going to try and introduce priceing per unit of alcohol; the strength of wine has been going up steadily from around 10% to an average of 13.5%. Then they wonder why more women are having problems with drink. I'm not in favour of prohibition, but I think the drinks industry has been taking the piss for quite a while and it's time they were made to draw their horns in. When you get to the point where the local post office is selling White Stripe cider just beside where you cash your giro, (which is the case where I live) then it's gone beyond a joke.

Vicola said...

Well, I know that as a teenager, if the Carling Cup had been renamed the Yorkshire Tea Trophy then I'd have jacked in the cheap cider and taken up Methodist bible talks instead. Just kidding, I'd still have been pissed in a field on a Friday night. Since most of my friends nicked the booze from a local branch of Tesco, the price wouldn't have made two hoots of difference either. If a bottle of cheap cider is put up from £2 to £5 do you know what today's teens, who have more bloody money kicking about than I do will do? They'll pay £5 for a bottle of cider and go get drunk. Frankly I suspect that our politicians are rather underestimating kids by assuming that they have the IQ of a coffee table and are only able to make decisions based on what they see on the tv.

Vicola said...

Julia - I agree to an extent with what you say, dealing wtih someone with an alcohol problem is awful but you cannot blame the drinks industry for today's drink related issues. They don't have officers out on the street holding people down and forcing them to drink, people do that all by themselves. If I went into the post office to post a letter I would do just that, I wouldn't stop and buy the cider that's on offer just because it's there. People, including politicians, need to stop blaming the drinks industry and the supermarkets for the fact that people like to drink, just because it's easier than taking personal responsibility for something that they chose to do themselves. IF you get drunk, it's your own fault, no one elses and if you become hooked on booze, cig, class A drugs or sniffing bicycle saddles it's your own responsibility, no one elses.

Julie said...


Of course people are always going to drink and there's people who are always going to have a drink problem no matter what. But for every one of those who will definitely end up with a drink problem, there's ten who might or might not have a drink problem, depending on how responsibly drink is marketed. And it's not being responsibly marketed just now. The worst example of this is table wine. It's a woman's drink and for the past few years the number of units in a bottle of wine has gone up and up. 13.5% is the norm; you can get 14.5%, which is just 0.5% below sherry, and I defy you to find a bottle under 12%. Now why have drinks companies done this? Simple; it makes the drink more addictive and more likely to be bought. Someone who is a light drinker can be turned into a moderate drinker and someone who is a moderate drinker can be turned into a heavy drinker.
Again, imagine you are a recovering alcoholic. You go into the supermarket to find the front door stacked with beer. Then you go to buy some butter and find that just beside that is the cheese and just beside that are bottles of wine. You go to buy a pizza and find there are bottles of wine beside that. You walk down the middle of the shop and find there's a drinks bin on every aisle. How long are you going to last before you buy a drink?
I think this debate is distorted by concerns about teenagers. Drink is a problem for all ages, and it's the quiet, regular soaks that the drinks industry really prize and the numbers of those have been growing. And for sure, it ultimately comes down to the person themselves, but to sell drink in that way and then say it's the person's fault if they end up with a problem is like saying to a burglar that he mustn't rob a house and then leaving the doors and windows open, your valubles on view and the car keys on the mantelpiece for a quick getaway.


This really is not about drink,or health or society,they do this because they can,the corruptive influence of power weilded by inferiour men will destroy every impulse toward basic common humanity and every-one will be much poorer because of it.

Mandelson's Gerbil said...


Why should the majority suffer because a few morons drink too much.

Do we jack up the price of cakes because of the few morbidly obese dickheads that scoff too much?

Alcoholism is not the same as real diseases such as Cancer. It is a state of mind, and a weak one at that.

Leave them to mess their lives up, and let the rest of us get drunk, fight each other, and wake up next to ugly hags in the morning.

neil said...

great post.... but... Emma Bishop, a marketing executive from Twickenham, added: "How's about this? As an adult, I think a reasonable daily limit is me drinking as much as I fucking want.

"If it affects my work I'll get sacked. If it affects my relationships I'll be all lonely and sad.

"And as for my health, following a quick glance at my tax bill I've decided that the NHS will treat me and the government can keep its fucking opinions to itself."

f&*K)£G hysterical,emma i LMAO

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, well tea total here although I sympathise. What I want to know is when is someone going to make obesity 'abnormal'. Pubs stop serving people who are already drunk, lets give fast food outlets an obligation to refuse to serve the morbidly obese.

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