Friday 7 September 2012

Alcohol Concern on the march again

Quite a bit of booze news in the last 24 hours. "News" is perhaps the wrong word since it implies newsworthiness. "Sloppily re-written press releases" might be a better term. This, from the BBC for example, has no relation whatsoever to current affairs other than the fact that Alcohol Concern Wales are having a conference, no doubt at the taxpayers' expense:

Drink firms 'target young online', Alcohol Concern Cymru claims

Campaigners claim drinks firms are using the internet and social media to evade restrictions on promoting alcohol to young people.

You might assume from this that some sort of research has been published to support allegations of wrong-doing (for it is forbidden to target the 'young' with alcohol advertisements). Alas, there is no mention of it. Instead we get a bunch of quotes from Alcohol Concern which spread unsubstantiated claims designed to advance their campaign for a total ban on alcohol sponsorship. As is typical of the nation's broadcaster when the temperance movement is involved, there are no balancing quotes from drinkers, the drinks industry, freedom-lovers or anyone else who might object to neo-prohibitionism.

And then in the Guardian, we have this:

Minimum alcohol price 'could save 5,000 older people's lives a year'

Researchers say 50p-a-unit minimum price would cut alcohol-related deaths among pensioners in England.

Forgive me if I sound jaded when I discuss these people's crystal balls, but it was only six months ago that a 50p minimum price was predicted to save 2,000 lives a year across the entire population. The government-funded sock puppet website says that it will save exactly 1,000 lives, again across the entire population. Suddenly saving 5,000 lives only amongst pensioners seems to be upping the ante somewhat, no? (The BBC is running the same story, but incorporates the old trick of multiplying the figure over a decade, hence 'Minimum alcohol price 'would save 50,000 pensioners'.)

Academics at Sheffield University produced the estimate for next Monday's edition of the BBC's Panorama programme...

Which is, of course, the natural place to début serious and impartial scientific research.

...which highlights the growing problem of over-65s drinking dangerously.

By my calculation, this is at least the third occasion in the last 18 months that Panorama has been used as a vehicle for temperance campaigning (see here, for the most egregious example). It really is time to put that once-great show out of its misery.

Setting the unit price at 50p would mean that a cheap bottle of vodka would start costing £13 rather than £9 and it would address the fact that alcohol is 44% cheaper now than it was in 1980.

Firstly, alcohol is not cheaper than it was in 1980. Whether measured in cash terms of real terms, alcohol is more expensive than it was in 1980. It is more affordable than it was in 1980, true, but so is nearly everything; as I mentioned on Wednesday, average incomes have doubled in real terms since then. The Guardian has made a mistake that no economist would make of confusing affordability with inflation-adjusted cost. If you want to see if something has become more or less expensive over time, you look at the cost in real terms, nothing more.

Secondly, why would anyone want to "address the fact" that something has become cheaper? Is there some stone tablet lying around upon which it is written that 1980 was the optimum year for prices? And who the hell do these people think they are to be trying to squeeze pensioners of their savings?

A spokesman for Alcohol Concern, the [fake] charity representing alcohol services, said life-changing events such as retirement or bereavement could prompt older people to start drinking too much.

That is absolutely none of your business, you little pipsqueak.

"Most often, it's something that goes on quietly in the home without disturbing anyone."

Yes, that must be intolerable to you curtain-twitching prodnoses, mustn't it?

A planned Home Office consultation on minimum pricing has been delayed but will finally start this autumn, a spokesman said.

Tremendous. A chance for the public to put their views across so the government can hear both sides and come to a carefully considered opinion about whether to bring in minimum pricing or not. Which way will Caesar's thumb turn? It's far too early to tell.

"We will introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol, ensuring for the first time that alcohol can only be sold at a sensible and appropriate price," he added.

Hey ho, at least we know where we stand. Don't think I'll bother responding to that "consultation".


Curmudgeon said...

If I'm over 65, surely I have led a hard life, and if I want to drink myself to death, surely that is my right.

But, on the other hand, if I live to 90+, it will disprove the official shite.

Ben said...

"Minimum alcohol price 'could save 5,000 older people's lives a year' "

Why this obsession about saving the lives of others? Why do they feel they are mandated to observe every individual of the 7 billion world population to find out whether they live their life correctly without doing harm to themselves? Do those 5000 older people really have to be coerced into a life style they don't want?

There are hundreds of millions of people who would like to be saved from illnesses, lack of food and water, wars, natural catastrophes. Help them! But of course that would imply that those good-doers lift their ass from the comfortable chair they are sitting on and to get their hands dirty.

Anonymous said...

What really annoys me is why newspapers regard this junk as worth printing. Are all newspapers owned and run by eugenisists? Or is it more likely that they are being paid to publish it? Could this junk be considered to be equivalent to 'health messages'?

James Burr said...

Yes, the Daily Mail is particularly guilty of this. Virtually every day there is a smoking story (and even if there isn't, they try and manufacture one with something like "Kerry Katona has a fag on street corner!" which is then written in a suitably pejorative tone). And of course they are backing the "porn filter" petition thing, too.

For a supposedly right-wing paper they do love their eugenicist, nannying nonsense. Quite WHY though, I don't understand as every story they ever publish on these topics is vilified by 98% of its readers in the comments section and these comments are then drowned in a sea of green arrows showing reader support. Their readers clearly don't agree with their nannying viewpoint, so why do they take this stance? Payment? Common Purpose graduate as editors? ASH trustees somewhere in the mix. I really would love to know.

Ivan D said...

The Guardian is a comic for middle class lefties written by their peers. It is largely irrelevant outside the BBC where it still seems to be considered a major newspaper. This is probably because the BBC has more than a representative share of middle class lefties working for it.

I am not sure why the BBC continues to fly the flag for Alcohol Concern despite all its failings and I do think it reasonable to accuse the corporation of effectively supporting the campaign for minimum alcohol pricing. In its defense, the BBC does write some decent health articles but when it comes to public health it is notoriously uncritical and in some cases obviously biased.

The Daily Mail is irresponsible on many levels but on health it crosses the boundaries into ridiculous and dangerous. I suspect that having the scientifically ignorant but terribly "concerned" public health groupie Claire Bates as its health editor contributes to the abysmal standard of its output.

Sadly, there are a lot of people like Claire out there. Sadly, her irresponsible bosses seem to think that her poorly researched sensational garbage sells papers.

The best thing we can collectively do is to not encourage them.

Ivan D said...

A selection of headlines from the The Claire Bates archives. These are taken from just the last 30 days. How can anyone actually produce this stuff and have any self esteem whatsoever.

Heavy drinking rewires brain making it harder for boozers to recover from traumatic experiences

Fertility fears for hundreds of women after reports removable contraceptive implants can go 'missing' inside their bodies

Green tea isn't just good for your heart, it's good for your brain too

Housework could reduce the risk of breast cancer by 13%

Minimum alcohol price could save lives of 50,000 binge-drinking pensioners

Mammograms may boost breast cancer risk in women with faulty gene

Allowing your children to drink at home 'could be putting them at risk of alcoholism'

Global toll of smoking revealed as study finds women are starting habit at increasingly younger age

Prescribing yoga on the NHS could slash annual £1.37billion back pain bill, say experts

Echinacea could trigger allergies in children under 12, UK drugs watchdog warns parents

Passive smoking damages cough reflex in children which is vital for clearing the lungs

Does having sex make women more fertile? Semen found to trigger ovulation