Why the anti-alcohol brigade should come with a warning

By Tony Leonard

- Last updated on GMT

Why the anti-alcohol brigade should come with a warning

Related tags Temperance movement

January is only just over but the neo-prohibitionists are already having a busy 2016.

Never mind that they’ve abandoned any pretence of scientific credibility, the mainstream media is happy to regurgitate their garbled logic.

Taking full advantage of the guilt-fest that is Dry January, the puritan lobbyists won a major reduction in the Government’s alcohol guidelines for men and women, with chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, declaring there was “no safe level” of alcohol consumption.

A number of scientists and statisticians, including the Royal Statistical Society, have highlighted the advisory panel’s (which included leading prohibitionists and anti-alcohol campaigners) dubious tricks and techniques. The society’s current and future presidents have written to health minister Jeremy Hunt saying that the guidelines don’t reflect the evidence, thereby undermining the principle of allowing the public to make informed choices and potentially reduce the credibility of public health campaigns in the future.

Strike two for the anti-drink zealots came with an ongoing campaign to include calories on drink labels and beer clips, conveniently ignoring the fact that there is no simple equivalence between calories in alcohol and calories in food because our bodies metabolise them in different ways.

Don’t believe me, ask a street drinker consuming a bottle of vodka a day how they manage to stay slim? A lump of coal may have a huge calorie count but it will not make you fat.
Then we had the shocking news that 69% of alcohol is consumed by ‘problem drinkers’; a figure that is less alarming when you consider that a problem drinker is one who drinks anything over the previous guidelines (which were plucked out of thin air).

These hysterical attempts to treat moderate drinking as a medical emergency are made in defiance of one simple fact that has been born out repeatedly in properly conducted studies around the world: drinkers live longer than abstainers! That isn’t a misprint, the overwhelming body of available evidence supports the theory that being a teetotaller is statistically far more harmful for you than regular sensible drinking.

It’s true that alcohol is an increased risk factor in certain types of cancer (and women with a genetic disposition to breast cancer should be aware of the risks), but it’s also associated with reduced risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes and dementia. Our bodies are complex machines and alcohol, like almost everything else we consume, like oxygen and water, is good for us in some ways and bad for us in other ways. Life’s messy like that!

The new temperance movement wilfully ignores the positive effects of drinking for the majority of us and takes a ‘total population’ approach to alcohol. This means rather than targeting the minority whose relationship with alcohol is problematic, every reduction (or preferably total abstention) in consumption, even from levels that statistically reduce risk and increase life expectancy, is viewed as a positive outcome.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the influence of these people is a serious danger to public health.

Tony Leonard runs the Snowdrop Inn in Lewes and the Roebuck Inn in Laughton, both in East Sussex, with his partner, Dominic McCartan

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