Monday, September 7, 2009

Booze Contains Alcohol

Is there no end to the mission creep of the State? The HSE continues its relentless war on the people's enjoyment of alcohol with its latest demand that the drinks industry warn people that their products contain alcohol. What next: warnings that butter and milk contain dairy produce? Nanny knows best after all.

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."

Staff member:
"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".

Staff member:
"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
Quite plainly the HSE has decided to become a secular version of the Pioneer Association, railing against the evils of the demon alcohol (but without the promise of eternal salvation for those who see the light). And I wouldn't mind, but some of the HSE's 'solutions' to the 'problems' they fret about actually threaten to make things worse. Here's recommendation number 8 in the conclusions:
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.


  1. Hmmm, does working for a market research company colour your views on alcohol and it abuse Gerard?


  2. when i lived in new mexico we had to do a 'responsible server' course (and pass) in order to serve alcohol in any setting, so if you 'over served' a person and they wen't and drove into a wall, they could sue the person who served them when they were drunk! talk about backward responsibility!

  3. when i lived in new mexico we had to do a 'responsible server' course (and pass) in order to serve alcohol in any setting, so if you 'over served' a person and they wen't and drove into a wall, they could sue the person who served them when they were drunk! talk about backward responsibility!

  4. Hmmm...rambling,repeating himself, sounds like someones had one too many...

  5. @ Liam Cash

    Indeed it's all about motives Liam.

    In my experience the drinks industry are big boys and can look after themselves.

    What motivates me is a severe allergy to busy-body prohibitionists intent on treating adults like children.

    Maybe I should change the name of my blog to 'down with nanny!'

  6. This is what happens when publically funded organisations are told to get busy. Imagine getting paid that salary to fomralise the obvious. If this kind of thing continues, I'll be at the front lines of the societal public/private divide throwing beer cans marked 'caution, throwing may cause injury'.

  7. I quite liked this bit too: "Alcohol is not an ordinary product. Alcohol has harmful properties (it is an intoxicant
    and a drug) and the risks associated with it are extensive. There is no clear level
    of drinking below which alcohol related accidents, injuries or diseases do not occur.
    In other words there is no known ‘safe’ or ‘sensible’ level of alcohol consumption for
    any one individual."

    And the HSE give us this for only e14bn a year!


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