The HSE report - A Standard Drink in Ireland: What Strength? - contains some of the most platitudinous statements on alcohol consumption that I've read in some time. Take this from page 8:
The second question is it easy for the consumer to know the amount of pure alcohol in the alcohol product on sale? While the alcohol content (ABV%) was displayed on the label as required by law, none of the alcohol products displayed the total quantity of pure alcohol (grams of alcohol). For example a large can of strong beer has twice the grams of alcohol as a small can of regular beer. This is important information because the more alcohol consumed the greater the risk of alcohol related harm, both in terms of a single drinking occasion as well as regular drinking over time. [emphasis added]You've got to wonder what kind of people they are writing this for? They obviously have in mind those people who have never drunk alcohol before in their lives and one day decide "what the heck, I'll give it a go". You can imagine the scene:
Ring of doorbell as customer enters off-licence ...
"Hello, I've been hearing a lot about alcohol lately and I know quite a few people who are drinking it so I thought I'd give it a go."
"Okay, now you know that alcohol has all sorts of side effects and that the more you of it you consume the more extreme the side effects become?"
"Oh really? I didn't know that. I just assumed from the advertising that I would make lots of friends, laugh a lot and meet beautiful members of the opposite sex".
"I was afraid of that. We get a lot of people coming in here with some of the same ideas. Look, I'm going to start you off gently: here's an alcohol free lager - once you get used to the taste we'll try you on a Bud Lite and see where we go from there ..."
Customer leaves, excited about the journey of discovery he has now embarked upon ...
Yes, I know, a tad sarcastic. But honestly, reading the HSE report (and all the similarly slanted and spun stuff they have reported before) you would think absolutely no one knew about the risks of alcohol abuse. Nor would you know from reading the HSE report that:
- alcohol consumption in Ireland peaked the best part of a decade ago
- the level of consumption in pubs is now back to levels last seen in the early 1990s
- a moderate consumption of alcohol is better for you than no consumption
Set a limit on the maximum container size for alcohol sales in the retail sector to reduce volume selling. Require that alcohol products be available for sale in unit size and not only in six packs.That's right - make it easier to buy one or two tins rather than the whole tray: the cash strapped youth of Ireland salute you HSE!
But back to my question at the start: where will it end? Fortunately the HSE's financial difficulties may dissuade them from their crusade to improve the morals of the nation and focus them on providing health services instead. But the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and so we must be alert when times are better and the mission creep of the State resumes its relentless forward march to utopia, one regulation at a time.