Alcohol report is flawed

22 January, 2010

The Health Select Committee report on alcohol is ruffling a few feathers at present, and rightly so. On the one hand, we have alcohol being branded as the new tobacco, costing taxpayers millions every year in alcohol-related health problems. On the other, we have, well, nothing actually, because there isn’t really any coherent voice that has looked at this report and examined its claims. Until now, that is.

Let’s start off by saying? there isn’t really a question that consistently drinking too much alcohol can be bad for a person, and bad for the society in which they live. I’d be amazed if many readers of this august organ hadn’t had a hang-over at some point in their lives, and perhaps some might have used that as an excuse for a day off work. But that’s not what we’re talking about.

The report claims there’s an epidemic of binge-drinking in the UK, that hospital admissions and death rates directly attributable to alcohol are on the increase, and we’re all going to hell in a handcart. Hold that thought.

Let’s also say, before we really get stuck in, that I think the government’s covert agenda is more to do with public order than public health.

Stuck with an unworkable set of laws concerning alcohol-related disorder, they are desperately looking for a way to control the populace’s drinking. Clearly, saying something along the lines of “Look, if you’re going to have a drink, please behave yourselves” isn’t going to have an effect, so they need to reach deeper into our psyches. They need to frighten people into behaving.

What better way of doing this than a health-focused report that comes to the conclusion we are all drinking too much, and can’t be trusted to have a few drinks without endangering ourselves and all around us? What better way of the government giving themselves carte blanche to change the rules than a report that says we simply can’t be trusted with that bottle of wine, that six pack of beer? The problem is, the report is hugely flawed.

I haven’t done the research to seriously challenge the report, but someone has. Pete Brown is a beer writer who has worked with alcohol for a long time, moving from advertising to research and non-fiction writing. He’s a nice guy, and is also the British Guild of Beer Writers’ Writer of the Year for 2009. He’s got a bit of form, and so I think he’s worth paying attention to. On his blog (?, you can have a look at his research into the Health Select Committee report. What you’ll quickly come to realise is that the report is based on a lot of selective statistics and partial truths.

Clearly, neither Pete nor I want to be seen as irresponsible – nobody is denying there is a section of the population that does have a problematic relationship with alcohol? and, equally, no-one is seeking to trivialise any individual cases.

However, when a report is issued that claims to speak as fact, as scientific research, and that will shape the government’s thinking and policy on alcohol for years to come, it’s important that it’s clean, concise and watertight.

Pete’s research has raised an awful lot of questions about the integrity and honesty of the report, and it’s important that everyone who works in the industry is aware of this.

Visit his blog and arm yourselves with the facts.

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