Tuesday, 29 July 2014

A temperance manifesto for 2015

The Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) is planning to hold a 'day of action' on September 5th to raise awareness of the neo-temperance lobby. The 'action' appears to revolve around a few state-funded pressure groups messing about on Twitter. Their slogan/hashtag is #21billion, which refers to the supposed 'cost to the economy' of alcohol misuse. This is a bogus figure. Aside from being created in 2003, when alcohol consumption was considerably higher than it is today, its largest elements are not costs to the economy, but are 'emotional impact costs' and private costs. None of these costs are balanced by any benefits, thereby rendering the figure meaningless. See Full Fact for a breakdown.

Nevertheless, £21 billion is a big number and that's all that matters to the soapbox orators of the AHA. They can be confident that journalists will not check it and will instead portray it as a cost to the taxpayer. In truth, the cost to the taxpayer of alcohol use is significantly less than the £12 billion drinkers pay in alcohol duty, but the AHA won't be mentioning that.

The Alcohol Health Alliance was formed by Ian Gilmore in 2007, modelled on the Smokefree Alliance that had successfully conned the government into introducing the smoking ban. Their debt to the anti-smokers is clear to see. Here are some of their "specific asks for the 2015 General Election"...

Introduce a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol for all alcohol sales, together with a mechanism to regularly review and revise this price

Not a big surprise, this one. For the AHA, the most important aspect is having a mechanism to keep raising the price. If they seize the price lever, you can be sure the minimum price will go up and up and up. You can also be sure that a higher minimum price will be set for pubs, as it has in Canada.

At least one third of every alcohol product label should be given over to an evidence-based health warning specified by an independent regulatory body

A third! This idea is obviously borrowed from their anti-smoking colleagues.

The sale of alcohol in shops should be restricted to specific times of the day and designated areas. No alcohol promotion should occur outside these areas.

The sale of alcohol is already restricted to certain times of day. Presumably what they mean is that they want opening hours to be severely curtailed. The 'designated areas' idea refers to their obsession with having alcohol sold in separate sections of supermarkets to inconvenience shoppers.

Licensing legislation should be comprehensively reviewed. Licensing authorities must be empowered to tackle alcohol-related harm by controlling the total availability of alcohol in their jurisdiction

This will be a one-way street, of course. The AHA is not in favour of local authorities liberalising the sale and availability of alcohol.

All alcohol advertising and sponsorship should be prohibited. In the short term alcohol advertising should only be permitted in newspapers and other adult press. Its content should be limited to factual information about brand, provenance and product strength

Anti-smoking campaigners promised that banning tobacco advertising would not lead to a ban on alcohol advertising. As regular readers will know, this is because they are congenital liars. The AHA's plan is identical to the anti-smoking lobby's plan of days gone by—to ban advertising on TV and radio before banning it completely.

An independent body should be established to regulate alcohol promotion, including product and packaging design, in the interests of public health and community safety

What do you suppose they want to do with the packaging? Could they, by any chance, be planning to make it plain?

What we have here is a plan for the state to control the price, curtail the availability and design the packaging of all alcoholic beverages. It is good old fashioned temperance talk bolstered by a generous helping of policies from the tobacco prohibitionists and a dash of 'public health' rhetoric. Is the AHA trying to widen the Overton window or do they really think that there are any politicians (aside from Sarah Wollaston) who are daft enough to endorse this manifesto?


John Charlesworth said...

They love these Independent bodies!!

"Drinks all round!"

Sunex Amures said...

They invite comments too!


Jonathan Bagley said...

Sunex, your link doesn't lead to a comments section. Have they removed it?

Sunex Amures said...

Most probably Jonathan. I left a comment (polite - not abusive) but within the hour it had disappeared. The column had no posts when I put mine on so I'm assuming that they got so sick of deleting criticism that they closed the section altogether.