Countering the neo-prohibitionist agenda

My Tweets have mentioned Pete Brown’s excellent series of articles which demolish a lot of lies told by those who wish to brow-beat us into not drinking. I thought they were so good and worth reading that I’d write a quick blog post to praise them more fully and hopefully bring them to the attention of a few more people.

It is very easy to fall for some of the neo-prohibitionist publications, they are invariably given uncritical coverage in the popular media. When you actually read things like the recent Health Select Committee report on alcohol you find they are filled with bogus statistics, unfounded assertions and contradictory conclusions. For example, we are so often told that alcohol consumption is increasing in teenagers; the HSC report repeats this ‘fact’. Very rarely does this statement come with any supporting data. If we look for some hard evidence about teenage drinking we can go to the Office of National Statistics; it has the following to say about 11-15 year olds’ consumption of booze:

In 2006, 45% of pupils said they had never had a proper alcoholic drink (a whole drink and not just a sip), an increase compared to 39% in 2001

In 2007, 20% reported drinking alcohol in the week prior to interview, down from 26% in 2001

So far from teenagers drinking more their alcohol consumption is actually falling. How often does that get reported? I don’t recall any newspaper or television news program mentioning this when another scare-mongering piece of toss repeats that same old lie.

Pete Brown’s latest blog post mentions this and examines more fully the suggestion that alcohol advertising encourages children to drink. He reports on the studies done that have started from the assumption that advertising has this result. Unsurprisingly, neither study could convincingly show alcohol advertising does influence children significantly when it comes to alcohol consumption, even though the studies’ authors wanted this conclusion. These studies were mentioned in the HSC report, but because they didn’t give the results the HSC wanted they tried a different way of demonstrating that advertising affects children.

The HSC’s weaselling strategy is to say that advertising makes children aware of alcohol. It is manifest drivel to equate awareness of something with a desire to use it. Unsurprisingly, the HSC give no hard data that awareness of alcohol leads to consumption of it by children, but this is the conclusion they draw based on ‘expert testimony’ from members of the anti-drink lobby. These experts are apparently trusted solely because they disagree with experts from the drinks and advertising industry.

Rules about alcohol advertising are incredibly strict in the UK; it is duplicitous to say alcohol adverts target children when the law already prevents them from doing so (no one under 25 can appear in an alcohol advert, drinking to excess cannot be mentioned and adverts cannot claim that booze brings social or material success). The only way drink advert regulation could get any stricter, as Pete Brown points out, would be if they were totally banned.

I hope Pete Brown does not mind me distilling his latest post here. I do so to draw attention to his excellent work and hopefully get some people to read more of his articles on the neo-prohibitionist agenda. If we know how they are mendacious we can answer back when they try to infringe our liberties.

Get over to now, read his posts and start being appalled by the lies told in order to demonise what is a healthy and cultural experience for the vast majority of us.