Tuesday 30 November 2010

A Drinking Nation? - a drinker responds

Not the title of a good weekend out, this is unfortunately the title of a taxpayer funded publication produced by the completely unbiased neo-prohibitionist tax payer-funded fake charity Alcohol Concern Cymru. Well worth the £250,000 of taxpayers money that is spent on this organisation by the Welsh Assembly Government. Of course any paper produced by Alcohol Concern Cymru entitled “Wales and alcohol”, will be biased, if you are looking for a balanced point as view you might as well ask the BNP to produce a paper on immigration, both organisations have set agendas and come with their prejudices but at least the BNP are democratically elected and not funded by the taxpayer!

So let's have a look at this document:
Alcohol consumption in Wales has risen markedly in recent decades
Unfortunately Alcohol Concern Cymru fail to produce any evidence of this. A document making such a bold statement as this should include details where the figures for this were obtained from, such as the British Beer & Pub Association. As they refuse to make any such qualifying statement then the reader should just take this statement as hearsay. Not a good start, but remember the fake charity Alcohol Concern Cymru has to justify its existence on taxpayers money by making unproven claims such as this.

Alcohol has also become closely linked to the widespread Welsh passion for sport, with major brewers seeking to enhance their Welsh brand by associating themselves with teams and events.
And what is wrong with that? The sponsorship of the Welsh Rugby team by SA Brain proved to be a great success with some of the best adverts for beer we have ever seen in Wales. If a brewer or any other company wishes to spend their money on supporting our players and teams then why should not they? Brains also sponsor Glamorgan Cricket and the Football Association Wales. The Tomos Watkin Brewery of Swansea sponsor Pontypridd RFC and Welsh boxer John Phillips. Coors sponsor Welsh rugby teams via their Worthington brand and even InBev sponsor Welsh teams, so what is the problem?
We don't live in a puritanical society where all alcohol advertising of sports events is banned. Yet the fake charity Alcohol Concern Cymru suggests there is something wrong with this type of sponsorship.

Awareness of the concept of units of alcohol was very low amongst interviewees
Hardly surprising this since the whole concept of units of alcohol was, according to the Times 20.10.07., “plucked out of the air” as an “intelligent guess”.
Richard Smith, a member of the Royal College of Physicians working party that invented the concept of units told The Times that the committee’s epidemiologist had confessed that “It’s impossible to say what’s safe and what isn’t” because “We don’t really have any data whatsoever”. So a make-believe unit of alcohol has a very low concept of awareness among drinkers. Perhaps instead of referring to 'units' of alcohol we should refer to Shenkers of alcohol after the head of the fake charity Alcohol Concern.
'Drink Limits useless' Times.

Recommendations by fake charity Alcohol Concern Cymru to address the situation of increasing alcohol misuse, despite the facts that the above examples are hardly instances of abuse:

1.      Minimum Pricing
As recommended by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers and the National Institute for
Health and Clinical Excellence, a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol needs to be implemented in both the on-trade and offtrade across England and Wales. This needs to be coupled with a new scale of duties incentivising the production and consumption of lower strength drinks. Given the lack of progress in establishing a minimum price per unit across England and Wales, Alcohol Concern supports devolving the necessary powers to the National Assembly for Wales.
So the fake charity Alcohol Concern Cymru supports more powers to the National Assembly for Wales, no doubt hopeful of more taxpayers money finding its way into their coffers. Notice how the Nanny State in the form of Alcohol Concern Cymru states that the minimum price needs to be implemented. No it does not, for one thing minimum pricing is illegal under competition law as it falls within the remit of price fixing. So the taxpayer-funded fake charity Alcohol Concern Cymru is advocating that competition law be broken. Time for the Charity Commissioners to take a long, hard look at why these idiotarians are given charity status.
Minimum pricing was rejected by the Scottish Parliament as they had considered it to be illegal.

2. In recognition of the growth of alcohol misuse as a public health issue, and in order to enable licensing authorities to properly address this issue, the protection and improvement of public health needs to be established as a fifth objective within the Licensing Act 2003. This has already taken place in Scotland, and if the UK Government is unwilling to make this important change across England and Wales, the necessary powers should be devolved to Wales.
We have already established that there is no growth in alcohol misuse. Protection and improvement of public health used to refer to clean water supplies and a working sewerage system; the fake charities of the twenty-first century now use the term to justify their handouts from the taxpayer.

3.To reduce irresponsible promotions and increase consumer choice, the Mandatory
Code for Alcohol Retailers in England and Wales must remain in force and be implemented in full.
Now we would all like to see increased consumer choice but the Mandatory Code had nothing to say about it. Instead it was an overly bureaucratic piece of legislation brought in by the Brown Government that was estimated to cost £58million for the first year and £38million in subsequent years. It did mention banning 'Happy Hours' though, as the puritanical pen-pushers who dreamed up this ill-thought-out rubbish would hardly want customers to be happy!

4.Given the current low levels of understanding about sensible drinking in Wales and deep-seated habits of alcohol overuse, targeted and sustained social marketing campaigns are needed to increase understanding of alcohol and bring about a lasting change in the
drinking culture in Wales.
No doubt these “ targeted and sustained social marketing campaigns” will require funding from the taxpayer. You cannot change thousands of years of drinking culture. You can however throw hundreds of thousands of taxpayers money at organisations who vainly attempt to change this culture.

5.In order to raise public awareness of sensible drinking and the concept of drinking in units, the number of units of each drink should be prominently displayed: on the front of the packaging, bottles and cans for drinks bought in the off-trade, and on menus and pumps in pubs and restaurants. Given the failure of the drinks industry so far to comply with voluntary labelling codes, such labelling requirements should be mandatory.
Since we have established units of alcohol are totally fictitious is there any point in having them listed on all packaging? We already have ABV, Alcohol By Volume, listed and most people understand that. There is no need to bring in this unnecessary, complicated, difficult to understand and expensive option. Expensive as all packaging would have to be changed to show the Shenker unit.

The document then diverts from its hectoring, puritanical Nanny State course and gives a brief history of alcohol in Wales!

Wales' Alcoholic Timeline:
7th Century – the Gododdin, describes an army of ancient Britons taking their fill of mead before
a raid on the village of Catterick in modern-day Yorkshire. No doubt pre-loading before a night out, this lads night out has obviously been taken out of all proportion by the press.

10th Century – the laws of Hywel Dda made several references to drink as a method of payment for officials, and to royal taxes to be paid in mead or beer.

14th Century – the poet Dafydd ap Gwilym wrote his humorous verse Trafferth mewn tafarn (Trouble in a pub).

1836 - one Merthyr Tydfil publican was found to be offering three drinks for the price of one as an early morning special offer. So price promotions are nothing new!

Not unsurprisingly Alcohol Concern Cymru then mention the 1881 Welsh Sunday Closing Act which closed pubs on Sundays. The neo-prohibitionists who wrote A Drinking Nation rejoice at this bit of legislation but fail to see what it achieved. For one thing the Act only applied to pubs and not to clubs, leading to the profusion of members-only clubs throughout South Wales and eventually to the Clubs' Brewery at Pontyclun. It also lead to the popularity of the two-pint flagon bottle and even to breweries delivering to customers houses on Saturday nights. According to tradition, on the passing of the Welsh Sunday Closing Act, the owner of a brewery in St. Mary Street in Cardiff, John Griffen Thomas resolved to sell his brewery and his brother-in-law immediately offered to buy him out. That brother-in-law was Samuel Arthur Brain!
Even in living memory when the pubs were shut on Sundays the front door was often locked and the back left 'off the latch' to allow customers to have their Sunday drink. The Welsh Sunday Closing Act was eventually repealed and common sense has now prevailed with more liberal laws.

A Drinking Nation? then proceeds to some rather dubious statistics, always a good last resort to use to help pad out an already dubious publication. For instance it mentions that in 1978 men in England and Wales drank an average of 15.5 units a week. Now I'm pretty sure that no one was drinking Shenkers of alcohol back in the 70s so these figures are obviously extrapolated from other data. Data, for instance that changed in 2007 when the Office of National Statistics assumed that larger glasses were being used and stronger alcohol was being consumed. So a glass of wine post 2007 contains 2 Shenkers of alcohol rather than one as it did pre-2007. With beer, one Shenker is now counted as 1.5, 1.5 is now 2 and 2.3 Shenkers is counted as 3. Can you see how data can be manipulated by Alcohol Concern when the rules for measuring data alters?
Unfortunately Alcohol Concern Cymru do not give any up-to-date figures for the average Shenkers drank today, perhaps the data shows that we are drinking less on average and does not fit in with their world view?
 The graph below shows the percentage of men and women drinking more than their 21/14 unit weekly 'limit' and shows a decine
 The graph above uses the altered unit which appears to show that consumption is rising. It's not. Source Office of National Statistics.

The estimated health service cost of alcohol-related chronic disease and alcohol-related acute incidents is between £70 million and £85 million each year.
According to the House of Commons Library is the alcohol industry contributes £14.79 billion to the economy every year. So any cost to the NHS is more than covered by the taxes we pay on alcohol. Taxes that also pay for fake charities such as Alcohol Concern Cymru to peddle their unscientific drivel.

In summing up, this publication is a typically biased report written by a fake charity who have to justify their existence by waging war on the alcohol industry and responsible drinkers. They even celebrate the Mandatory Code abolishing the 'dentists chair' despite the fact this has proven to be an urban myth. Myths, legends and bad science this work of fiction might as well be entitled the Chronicles of Narnia rather than A Drinking Nation.

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