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 isnít really any coherent voice that has looked at this report and examined its claims. Until now, that is.

Letís start off by saying? there isnít really a question that consistently drinking too much alcohol can be bad for a person, and bad for the society in which they live. Iíd be amazed if many readers of this august organ hadnít 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 thatís not what weíre talking about.

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

Letís also say, before we really get stuck in, that I think the governmentís 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 populaceís drinking. Clearly, saying something along the lines of ďLook, if youíre going to have a drink, please behave yourselvesĒ isnít 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 canít 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 canít be trusted with that bottle of wine, that six pack of beer? The problem is, the report is hugely flawed.

I havenít 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. Heís a nice guy, and is also the British Guild of Beer Writersí Writer of the Year for 2009. Heís got a bit of form, and so I think heís worth paying attention to. On his blog (?, you can have a look at his research into the Health Select Committee report. What youíll 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 Ė 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 governmentís thinking and policy on alcohol for years to come, itís important that itís clean, concise and watertight.

Peteís research has raised an awful lot of questions about the integrity and honesty of the report, and itís 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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