Shakespeare on guidelines

A few people have suggested that my little petiton requesting that the Government follow its own advice and stop drinking is an over reaction. It has been suggested that despite the Governments Chief Medical office saying there is no safe level of drinking that they haven’t actually said we shouldn’t drink. It’s also been said that we should just “live and let live”, which I’m all in favour of and as soon as they let me get on with my life without nagging I’ll happily leave them alone. However more insidious is the suggestion that it’s not a big deal as these are “just guidelines” not legislation, well smokers and many businesses can tell you just how well it goes if you don’t follow “voluntary” guidelines they soon become law. Also the nature of these guidelines is used to drive other policy such as health, policing and has an impact on people’s employment and insurance, not to mention the impact it will have on the brewing and pub trades. If you think these are just guidelines then please read some of the many excellent articles linked to previously. Also though consider this if the new “guidelines” are an average of a pint a day and no more than s pints a day then any pub selling you more than that is encouraging harmful drinking which may impact their licensing. The drop in the “guidelines” means suddenly we have more problem drinkers, which obviously needs more action to be taken and if people aren’t “voluntarily” following the guidelines then as we’ve seen in the past more action will be called for.

As ever when considering any matter the bard has already dealt with this and summed it up in a nutshell, this time in Hamlet and Rosencrantz responding to King Caludius’s request:
“Both your majesties
Might, by the sovereign power you have of us,
Put your dread pleasures more into command
Than to entreaty.

However unlike the unfortunate Rosencrantz we are not so beholden to our Government, so if these “guidelines” of theirs are based on solid research and are such an excellent idea why would they have any problem in leading by example after all surely none of them are “problem drinkers”. If however they feel that maybe the guidelines aren’t sensible enough to apply to them then maybe they shouldn’t apply to the rest of us either and they should perhaps come up with something more sensible.

So do please do sign and share the petition so that we can find out what they really think, when asked to follow their own recommendations.

Follow your own guidelines

Safe to Drink As the Government have decided that there is no safe level of drinking, and that we shouldn’t drink more than a pint a day, it seems to me that they really should lead by example and follow their own guidelines. If there’s no safe level of drinking then how can they possibly justify having bars in the houses of Parliament, or indeed serving alcohol at any governmental event, such a thing would surely be a dereliction of their duty of care. At the very least they should enforce the new drink limits and make sure that within the parliamentary bars the MPs and other staff never drink more than the guidelines. So just to encourage them in following the advice they’d give to the rest of us, there is a petition that they follow their own advice.
“Given the new advice on alcohol, that there is no safe limit, all Government buildings and events should be alcohol free, alternatively any alcohol subsidy should be removed & the new limits, including recommendations on days of abstention and a daily limit of 3 drinks be strictly enforced”

Please do sign and share.

Those new guidelines in full

Safe to DrinkThe dust it seems is beginning to settle on the publishing of the new alcohol guidelines by the Governments chief quack. Many many people have written some truly excellent articles on these guidelines some of which I will link to or summarise in a bit. First however lets review those new guidelines in full:
There’s no safe limit – you must go teetotal and abstain
If you can’t abstain don’t drink more than 2 units (a pint a day)
You mustn’t drink every day and you mustn’t have more than 6 units in a day.
Also don’t have fun*

Or more succinctly:
Drinking alcohol will kill you – hopeless addicts will be allowed 2 pints every other day and there is no safe level of fun**.

Nice simple guidelines then, and the puritans do like simple un-nuanced messages that they can repeat mantra like until we all do what they say just to shut them up. Of course where the puritans and the Government are involved there’s no such think as “just guidelines”. If you don’t follow the voluntary guidelines then they’ll ratchet things up until they’re not voluntary any more. Already the slippery slope (which the puritans still insist doesn’t exist) is in evidence with alcohol free Scotland calling for “cigarette-style warnings” on booze.

The actual evidence from many many studies and meta studies is that moderate drinking makes for a longer life than being teetotal (though it may not seem that way if you don’t drink). This robust and vigorous evidence for a J shaped mortality curve for drinkers has been dismissed as an “old wives tales” by the governments chief quack based on a single study. I would of course also argue that “length of life” may not be the best measurement to use for what we can and can’t do – quality of life would seem far more relevant. After all a life without risk would be very dull indeed and the puritans aren’t yet calling for “no safe levels of” mountain climbing, cycling or driving (well not yet at any rate). One thing to note is that in most of the press releases the puritans just talk about how ‚ÄúThere is no evidence that drinking above government guidelines provides any benefit to the heart”, where as of course there’s far more to health than just your heart and the J-shaped curve is for total mortality. So just because drinking may not be as good for your heart as some studies suggest the puritans want to use that as an excuse to disregard the benefits to total health that moderate drinking provides. It looks as though the puritans “science” is playing fast and loose with the data. I’d not go so far as to say that the Chief quack and fellow puritans are lying but they are misleading us. If we look at the previous studies we’d need to drink 40 units a week to have the same mortality as teetotalers, so I can but assume that the danger they’re trying to protect us from is enjoying ourselves (something they consistently put no value on). Likewise if they were actually concerned with health rather than a moral crusade they might make it clearer in their numerous and unending campaigns of nagging that things like Dry January may do more harm than good.

It is hard to avoid the suspicion that the purpose of these guidelines is to denormalise drinking following the tobacco template. After all if there is “no safe level of drinking” then everyone involved in producing or providing alcohol are now involved in a toxic trade and far more easily attacked. The lower guidelines will also of course also create 2 million new problem drinkers, which proves there’s an alcohol problem which will need more action from the puritans.

The one good thing that may come out of these latest guidelines is that it looks as though the puritans may have over played their hand as everyone from the Guardian (well kind of) to the Telegraph to Spiked and numerous other sources have carried articles decrying them as laughable and based on bad science. So just for once the puritans aren’t getting it all their own way in the mainstream media. We can’t be complacent in our fight against the puritans but maybe once we get used to treating these guidelines as not just wrong but stupid we might begin doing the same with some of the puritans other mutterings.

So in summary:
The puritans are once more lying and their “science” is so bad it’s not even wrong. The guidelines are never intended to remain as just that, but are to provide more grease for the slippery slope toward prohibition – despite the detrimental impact that will have on public health. Ignore them and mock them when you can, and relax in the knowledge that the science shows that moderate** drinking is the best choice for a long and happy life.

* I may have made that up
** I may have also made up that last bit as well
*** Not moderation is the key here, probably best keep it below 20 pints a week (if you want to live as long as a teetotaller) , have the odd day off and not too many in one go (at least not too often). If you’re debating selling the kids to buy another bottle of Rioja then you may have a problem and might want to get some help (though this may depend on your kids and how good the Rioja is).