John Porter: It's bad for you

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Alcoholic beverage, Money

The other night at dinner, I cracked open a second bottle of wine and poured myself and Mrs P a large glass each. We'd both had long and challenging...

The other night at dinner, I cracked open a second bottle of wine and poured myself and Mrs P a large glass each. We'd both had long and challenging days, and quite frankly, we'd earned it.

But the collective gasp that issued from our offspring was enough to suck most of the oxygen out of the room. It was followed by a chorus of comments along the lines of "you really shouldn't drink so much," and "it's not good for you."

And that is where the problem with alcohol education policy lies. The message my kids have gathered from the ongoing sensible drinking campaign is not 'we all need to watch how much we drink" or "alcohol in moderation can have some health benefits", but simply that "drinking is bad". Full stop.

And that's because public information campaigns are, inevitably, a blunt instrument. That isn't a problem when the message is a simple one along the lines of 'clunk-click, every trip' or 'always follow the Green Cross Code'. There's very little ambiguity about road safety.

When it comes to moderate drinking, though, there's not much that's truly back-and- white. Just plenty of shades of grey.

The problem with that is, politicians like certainty, and so does the public. Whatever policy is being implemented has to be presented as the Only Way Forward. In reality, there are usually a number of viable options, and the one that gets picked is simply the least worst of the choices.

For example, my mortgage payment will be lower next month, assuming the bank gets around to passing on this week's hefty rate cut - but the interest on the modest nest egg my mum relies on to eke out her pension will be that much lower too.

Alcohol units are another case in point. What started as a sensible, broad guideline approach has now become set in stone for many people, simply because it has proven impossible to properly convey the message that each individual's limits are different.

It is, I fear, beyond the wit of the civil servants who implement policy, or the marketing agencies that suck up vast amount of taxpayers' money to promote the message, to come up with a campaign which genuinely presents all the issues surrounding alcohol consumption.

So whatever the intention, the reality for the drinks industry is that millions of people are simply absorbing the 'drinking is bad' message.

And those of us who enjoy a pint of cask beer, a glass of wine and the occasional post-prandial brandy are getting very poor value for money from the people we elect - and pay - to represent our interests.

Related topics: Legislation

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