Over the top public health agendas are counter-productive

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Over the top public health agendas are counter-productive

Related tags Public health

We seem to be facing something of a temperance movement of late, and the proposed licensing moves in Camden are reinforcing that fear within the trade.

The proposals in Camden appear to be a move to tie public health overtly into the licensing objectives and many have expressed genuine and serious concerns of a “stealth health creep” on the trade.

The big worry with this is, if it should come to fruition, it would set a precedent that could see similar rules rolled out across the UK.

Of course, responsible licensees take public health seriously, and do everything they can to mitigate impacts — pubs remain the safest place to consume alcohol and that is down to the good practices of licensees.

However, the focus on public health in this sector is over the top — you don’t see the fast-food sector being told it can’t serve high-fat content food to overweight people, for example.

All of this follows on from the recent lowering of the recommended alcohol guidelines from the Chief Medical Officer to just 14 units a week for men and women.

Many in the trade have questioned the new guidelines, with CPL’s Paul Chase recently conducting a lecture in which he called for an independent review — a story that anti-alcohol campaigners from the Institute for Alcohol Studies (IAS) (one of the groups involved in helping to set the guidelines) described on social media as a joke, suggesting the Publican’s Morning Advertiser​ was becoming a parody of itself. Ho ho indeed.

In an excellent article for The Spectator​, Christopher Snowdon points out the fact that the Public Health England committee, which devised the guidelines was heavily dominated by temperance and anti-alcohol-affiliated campaigners.

He asserts that the committee rejected a wide body of evidence on the benefits of alcohol on health while embracing woolly evidence on the links of alcohol with cancer.

One of the most telling facts he presents includes a line in the minutes, which suggests that the committee was less interested in changing public behaviour but more interested in influencing Government policy.

Now Snowdon himself is far from balanced in the debate, being a keen campaigner against Government intervention on issues like alcohol, but the facts of his article still make for a chilling read — I’m sure those people in the IAS would claim parody status for this as well.

Meanwhile, a report from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) says middle-aged men are ignoring the guidelines, not because they want to dice with their health but simply because they don’t believe them.

Of course, judging from the notes in the minutes of the committee this probably isn’t of concern to them — they don’t care that in lowering the guidelines to such a level they’ve undermined any public health work previously achieved. As long as they influence the ministers, that’s what counts.

Of course, the trouble with this kind of policy is that it tends to have the opposite effect — prohibition in the US didn’t stop alcohol consumption. If anything, it probably created a bigger public health problem with illegal alcohol hitting the streets.

But the anti-alcohol campaigners can’t see past their own agendas, or learn the lessons of history. Anyone disagreeing with their views is a joke. We’ll see who has the last laugh.

Related topics Licensing law

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