Thursday, 19 April 2018

Alcohol Focus Scotland's quest for relevance

Spring is in the air and Britain's state-funded pressure groups are ready for a fresh assault on freedom.

ASH, the oldest of the nanny state sockpuppets, has finally found a reason to justify its existence after successive governments capitulated to every one of its demands. It now wants to censor television programmes in case a teenager catches a glimpse of Winston Churchill smoking a cigar. 

With the sugar tax in place, censorship is also the name of the game for the diet police. Millionaire half-wit Jamie Oliver has been talked into fronting another campaign for an evidence-free policy, this time for a watershed ban on HFSS (high in fat, sugar or salt) food advertising. He is encouraging his followers to tweet photos of themselves covering their eyes to send a message to politicians.

The message seems to be that they are frightened by the sight of chocolate and want the government to shield their eyes from it. It makes them look kind of pathetic, in my opinion, but then Oliver has good reason to cover his eyes these days as his restaurant empire crumbles around him.

Finally, there is the temperance lobby. With Scottish consumers being hit by minimum pricing in less than a fortnight, Alcohol Focus Scotland needs something to justify the £500,000 of taxpayers' money that the SNP shovels to it every year and so it has turned to the oldest of all temperance policies - a licensing clampdown.

Naturally, the state broadcaster is giving them a leg up with an anonymously written article that contains no opposing views... 

Alcohol availability 'boosts crime rate'

Crime rates soar in areas where there are a large number of pubs, clubs and shops selling alcohol, according to a new report. 

Researchers found that neighbourhoods in Aberdeen, Moray and South Ayrshire were among those worst affected.

In those regions crime rates are almost eight times higher in areas with the most alcohol outlets, compared with those with the least.

Alcohol Focus Scotland called for action on the availability of alcohol.

If this seems familiar it's because anti-drink groups have been putting out similar stories for years - see here and here, for example.

They are all based on knuckle-headed interpretations of correlations from ecological studies and produce meaningless stats like this...

The report compared neighbourhoods with the highest number of licensed premises across Scotland to those with the least.

It found that, in those with the most pubs, clubs and off-licences:
  • Crime rates were, on average, four times higher
  • Alcohol-related deaths were twice as high
  • Alcohol-related hospitalisation rates were almost twice as high.

It reminds me of the endless stories about the gender pay gap. It doesn't matter how many sets of statistics these people use, they do not mean what the campaigners think they mean. Average pay differentials between men and women who do different jobs do not mean that there is endemic sexism in the workplace, and higher rates of crime and alcoholism in densely populated urban environments where there are lots of shops do not mean that the 'availability' of alcohol causes crime or alcoholism.

Firstly, inner city Scotland is different to rural Scotland for a whole host of reasons that have nothing to do with the number of Tesco Expresses. The researchers (who were commissioned by Alcohol Focus Scotland, although the BBC doesn't say that) say that they controlled for a handful of confounding factors, as if such a thing were meaningfully possible in such a crude cross-sectional study.

Secondly, suppliers respond to demand. If the 'public health' lobby could get this simple fact into their skulls they would be halfway towards understanding how the world works and three-quarters of the way towards understanding that commercial activity is not a conspiracy against the public. 

Alcohol Focus Scotland admit that they can't take licences away from existing premises but want to see a ban on new premises opening. This is exactly what some local authorities have done with takeaway food outlets, based on equally pathetic evidence, and it would have the same negative effect on consumers without doing anything to improve health.

I suppose we must brace ourselves for more of this rubbish in the years ahead until the evidence becomes 'overwhelming'.


For the second time in a week, the BBC has had to change the headline of a story fed to them by the 'public health' racket. 'Alcohol availability "boosts crime rate"' has become '"Higher crime" in areas where alcohol is most available, says study'. Somebody must have explained that whole correlation/causation thing.

That's better

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