Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Back To The Future With CAMRA

As you can gather from the lack of posts here in the past week, it is still incredibly busy at Puddlecote Inc as our contract mobilisation date looms ever closer. 

Cash flow has become a bit less, erm, fluent recently due to the massive level of investment we have had to undertake. We currently have new vehicles all over the place and are ploughing through the training of the extra staff we have had to recruit. Rewards are high all round but it's squeaky bum time so if things are quiet here in coming weeks that'll be why.

I did manage to catch up with some news this afternoon over my lunchtime sarnie, Twix and Lucozade though, and this article leapt out at me somewhat.
The Government is being urged to hold a new consultation on alcohol consumption, after a study showed that most people believe that drinking in moderation is part of a healthy lifestyle. 
A survey of more than 2,000 adults revealed that over half disagreed with official health guidelines, and that they should be the same for men and women. 
The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said its research showed that the Health Department should launch a public consultation on whether guidelines on drinking were "fit for purpose".
They are, of course, not fit for purpose at all. It's quite clear that the Chief Medical Officer was operating from a position of complete ignorance when declaring that "there is no safe level" of alcohol consumption back in January.

The science doesn't support this unless you ignore a whole host of studies which report a protective effect ... which Silly Sally's review did.

Today's article continued ...
A Department of Health spokesman said: "The alcohol guidelines give people the latest and most up to date scientific information so that they can make an informed decision about their drinking. This was the most comprehensive look at all the evidence on alcohol in 20 years (apart from the omissions, natch - DP)
"The review team looked at all the studies on the protective effects of alcohol, but concluded that the protective effect was overestimated for most people."
All of which suggests that the public surveyed by CAMRA are far more educated on the matter than the government. Isn't that truly scary?

Anyhow, many of you may remember another time when the "no safe level" rationale was used; in order to promote the idea of a smoking ban, and CAMRA were right behind that initiative at the time. It brings to mind an article I wrote on just this subject back in 2011, which was published in a monthly newsletter aimed at members of .... CAMRA.
THERE IS A curious – and ill-judged – tendency amongst many beer lovers to consider their chosen vice as somehow resistant to the attentions of the health lobby as opposed to tobacco. Even CAMRA have fallen for it. In 2004, they weakly attempted to defend pubs from the harmful effects of the smoking ban by playing right into tobacco control hands and suggesting that a diversity of outlets offering choice for all would “split the pub trade”. In the end, they got their wish as all pubs were given no choice. Now, you can argue, if you like, that this has had no damaging effect on the hospitality trade (I’d heartily disagree) but it has certainly contributed to a big problem for pubs, and beer lovers, which is only now beginning to come home to roost. 
In a rousing 1919 speech following the ratification of Prohibition in the US, “anti-saloon” campaigner Billy Sunday declared “Prohibition is won, now for tobacco!”. Because all the while campaigners for the prohibition of alcohol were tied up with that issue, their assault on smoking was left on the back burner. Once the war against alcohol was completed, resources were freed up to attack tobacco, employing the same personnel and moral pleading which was so successful against booze.  
Nothing has changed from those days. Just as righteous crusaders tackled both substances around a century ago, so do their modern day equivalents act the same now. ASH have taken to coaching anti-alcohol campaigners on how to achieve the same demonisation of alcohol as has happened with tobacco, and the methodology is lifted from the successful anti-smoking playbook. Professor David Nutt was the first to suggest that “there is no such thing as a safe level of alcohol consumption”, a position which is increasingly becoming the default one. The Cancer Council of Australia certainly thinks that way, a couple of months ago advocating that total abstinence should be the only public health policy. In a chilling reminder of post-prohibition triumphalism in the US, the Australian press reported the campaign as “Cigs war won: now cancer campaigners set their sights on beer”. 
CAMRA keeps ploughing this furrow, as in August last year where they tried to claim some form of high ground by declaring that “beer can supplement a healthy lifestyle if consumed in a responsible manner”, but this approach is doomed if they think that playing in public health’s self-constructed playground is going to do anything but invite ridicule. ‘No safe level’ leaves no wriggle room whatsoever, and the protestation that beer is somehow not that bad will be thrown back at them by the health lobby as an admission of guilt. Which it is. 
No. The best form of defence, as always, is attack. And instead of back-sliding when the smoking in pubs debate was taking place, CAMRA would have been better served standing firm and resisting all legislation on tobacco. While that buffer was still in place, CAMRA were insulated against the worst excesses of an insatiable health lobby. Without it, resources are being withdrawn from tobacco in favour of new targets, and those who enjoy a pint or two are now squarely in the crosshair. 
So as CAMRA now wrestle with being next tick box on the denormalisation campaign, never let it be said that they weren't warned, eh?

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