Critics of the new guidelines have already pointed out some of their defects – how they depend too heavily upon research at the University of Sheffield conducted by those committed to the minimum pricing of alcohol (another entirely political, unscientific cause); how they concentrate so much on cancer risk that they play down alcohol benefits for the heart; how they show no sense of proportion about what we mean by risk; how binge-drinking is less of a problem than it was 20 years ago.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, distills, makes wine, or runs a pub, club or restaurant, for pushing something which is unsafe.They can also have a go at anyone who advertises any of the above, and insist on health warnings and, later, bans.
Emulating the anti-tobacco blueprint is the name of the game. This has been clear to seasoned observers for some time. This week should be a wake up call to the general public.
From this moment on every campaign for policies to attack drinkers will be accompanied by references to there being no safe level of drinking, to alcohol causing cancer (with no reference to the small level of risk or the rarity of the cancer), and to there being no health benefits from drinking (a lie).
Happy new year.