Who cares about drinking guidelines when they are just made up?

[image image_id=”306″ size=”large” title=”This Scotsman is clearly having a good time” align=”left”]There is another story on the BBC News website trying to scare Scottish people into drinking less alcohol and accept pointless restrictions on their liberty when it comes to alcohol pricing and availability.

One of the things that vexed me about the article was that it says the average Scots drinker over the age of 18 drinks 26.5 units a week, more than the recommended 21 units. Since this story is an uncritical regurgitation of a press release from an organisation with an axe to grind about drinking, the BBC fails to mention that the recommended drinking limits have no meaning. They were just made up, set a a totally arbitrary level to try and encourage people to drink less. Being a few drinks over a totally meaningless limit does not mean that you are drinking to harmful excess, you are just drinking more than some smug, self-righteous, moral crusader would like you to drink.

Moreover, it is really irksome that the data is presented in terms of averages for the whole drinking population. An average means that some people are drinking more and some less than this, but by just attaching one number to everyone this becomes a blatant attempt to demonise, or at least to scare, every drinker in Scotland. Most people will be perfectly safe drinkers, it is only a few who drink to damaging excess. This group who see life through the bottom of a bottle could well do with some help with their habit, but if they don’t want that help then it shouldn’t be forced on them with ham-fisted legislation. The majority of safe drinkers should certainly not have their liberty to enjoy a few drinks compromised; it is a myth that reducing overall consumption of alcohol reduces the number of problem drinkers.

There are other problems with that article. For example, it quotes the Scottish health secretary repeating the same old lie that alcohol is getting cheaper. We also have to stomach the hackneyed, clichéd and trite statement that it is possible to buy an alcoholic drink for less than the price of some bottled waters; do they expect us to believe that people will be so scandalised by the price of fancy bottled water that they’ll buy cheap booze instead and become alcoholics? What a pile of drivel.

It is a shame that press-releases like this from neo-prohibitionist organisations are so uncritically regurgitated by the mass media. No attempt is ever made to check them for mistakes or unreasonable assertions. By letting these people publish their propaganda with no balancing views or data given we’ll all end up suffering when the control-freaks limit our freedom.

Edit: Pete Brown, beer writer of the year 2009, has also picked up on this disingenuous article and raises more good points as to why we should not be bothered with anything it says. Here is his blog post.