Arguing against government advice which is intended to keep us healthier is difficult. I myself publicly argued that lowering the drink drive limit will have no impact on road safety and will only damage rural communities. While many understood the nuances of my argument, others felt this was a thoughtless publican putting profit before public safety.
So how do we defend ourselves against claims that we’re providing a service that is damaging public health?
None of us can deny the impact of excessive alcohol consumption and nor should we. Discrediting Government policy by questioning the robustness and/or interpretation of evidence is tricky because it leaves us open to shouts of “well they would say that, wouldn’t they?” and runs the risk of the public not engaging with the subtleties of complex arguments.
For me, the best way for the trade to defend itself is to espouse the benefits to health that a well-run pub can bring.
Pubs obviously have an important role to play in building communities and friendships. We’ve seen countless friendships forged at the Salutation. Pubs help counteract loneliness and we need to start shouting louder about it. The Campaign to End Loneliness cites numerous studies on how damaging social isolation can be. It affects mental and physical health and leads to longer recovery times from illness.
Research carried out on behalf of CAMRA showed that people who live close to a pub are “significantly happier, have more friends, better life satisfaction and are less likely to drink to excess”. The report states: “Friendship and community are probably the two most important factors influencing our health and wellbeing”.
This might seem a bit woolly, but actually it’s a very serious issue. Mental health problems are starting to get the attention that they deserve from politicians and healthcare professionals.
It’s about time we started making people more aware of the importance of pubs and their role in the health of the nation. Hopefully we can convince politicians to stop batting us over the head with fatuous health recommendations and recognise that by supporting the trade they can help diminish a much greater, looming public health disaster.
Peter Tiley is licensee at the Salutation Inn, Ham, Gloucestershire