Monday 11 August 2014

Hands off our bottles

From The Guardian

The news today that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse wants health warnings on alcohol will come as no surprise to those of you who read last month's post about the Alcohol Health Alliance's ten point temperance manifesto.

As ever when the state is lobbying itself, it's difficult to see where the politicians end and faux civil society begins. Alcohol Concern's new CEO, Jackie Ballard—who has been on the political / third sector gravy train for years—epitomises this. She was on the BBC this morning to give her support to the APPG's idea ("they have said..." "the MPs describe it as a pandemic..." etc.), but it was not the APPG's idea. It was the Alcohol Health Alliance's idea and Alcohol Concern is a leading member of the Alcohol Health Alliance. The APPG is merely the mouthpiece of these organisations—most of whom are state-funded—in parliament. And we know that the next step is a 'day of action' in September.

As for the policy proposal itself, I don't need to remind you that anti-smoking campaigners denied that this day would ever come, but you should remember that we already have health warnings on alcohol in Britain. They look like this:

What the APPG/Alcohol Health Alliance wants is bigger and more graphic warnings (sound familiar, smokers?) Although they've been rather quiet about it during their media blitz today, their 'manifesto' explicitly states that...

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

What would these warnings look like? The UK Faculty for Public Health have already given us an idea of what they want...

Although that is mild compared to what Eurocare wants them to look like...

And Eurocare's is mild compared to the warnings that the Thai government wanted to introduce (they were only stopped by a trade dispute that was led—ironically—by Australia).

The APPG/Alcohol Health Alliance will say that they just want to provide people with information, but they are free to do that without co-opting private property. Considering the temperance lobby's addiction to misinformation—such as the claims heard today that "alcohol is the second biggest preventable killer" and "costs Britain £21 billion a year"—it is doubtful that their health warnings would be grounded in sound science. Indeed, even the current health warnings which say that it is unsafe to drink more than 2-4 units a day and that pregnant women shouldn't drink at all are not evidence-based.

As with cigarette warnings, the intention is not to provide information (information which is, in any case, widely known) but to deter purchase. As with cigarette warnings, the aim is to demonise the product and stigmatise the user. Why else would they want to take up "at least a third of every product label"? Why else would they want gruesome images?

We have no reason whatsoever to assume good faith from the temperance lobby. On the contrary, we know exactly what template they are working from and we have every reason to believe that they see bigger warnings not as an end in itself but as a stepping stone from which they can take "the next logical step".

Simon Chapman scoffs at the slippery slope in 2003 (my emphasis)


Frank said...

Maybe they could phase it in and study the effects as they go.

I suggest starting with all the alcohol sold in the Palace of Westminster. If that proves successful they could move on to adding warnings to champagne, single malts and vintage port, checking as they go that it's still having the desired effect.

I'd vote for that, wouldn't you? :)

Geoff Cliff said...

Yes, the slippery slope is steepening! We must now expect 'plain'packaging on alcohol, on butter, on crisps, on cakes and biscuits, on cars, on condoms.
It is inevitable that, with the war on smoking now won. the control freaks must move on to new targets. That's the only way they can continue to appropriate public funds for public control.

Junican said...

Geoffrey. The war on smoking has most certainly not been won. The blitzkrieg has rolled over the trenches (the smoking ban) and made major advances (high taxes), but has now stalled. The Zealots are struggling to get their plain packaging against lots of opposition. They may get it, but it would not be a major victory because it does not actually affect smokers.
I was Magalluf, Mallorca, a couple of weeks ago and was able to observed hundreds of youn people roaming around. Some smoked, some didn't, but there was no indication of any 'feeling of shame' among the smokers. I got to speak to a couple of young women and, cutting a longer conversation short, I asked them how they cope with all the propaganda which is thrown at them. The answer was: "Well, it's life, innit?" I think that she meant that it is something that they get all the time about all sorts of things. Water off a duck's back.