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A grill pan will soon come with a Government Health Warning!

I listened to BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme on Thursday and England’s Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, defending a move on the new guidance on alcohol units; and thought, shit, on top of, Dry January, what next, that’s all our industry needs at this time of year.

For over two decades, we have been told to closely monitor our unit intake. Now Jeremy Hunt has decided to slash the number to 14, leaving it the same (14) for women. In Spain the “safe” level is 35 units for men and 21 for women. In America it is 22 for men and 12.3 for women. France however has the best government guidance on alcohol consumption. It has none.

I have nothing against Dame Sally Davies; indeed I imagine like many people in the rarefied heights of professional academia, she is pleasant and entirely incapable of deliberate malice. And I am sure one could listen to her for hours, going on about what she imagines life is like for us ordinary folk: she was after all a diplomat’s wife in Madrid for four years.

She is now England’s most senior doctor but back in 2013 revealed she had tried cannabis, baking it into cookies while studying at Manchester University in the early ‘70s. She has also said she would be ‘ready with quite a lot of advice’ if ministers decided to decriminalise some drugs and has repeatedly questioned whether the Government’s policy on drug use should be driven by the Home Office, with its focus on law and order, or by the Department of Health. So she’s for decriminisalation of drugs but can’t say it outright, because of her position. And she’s telling me how I should live my life.

I have known several people who have become seriously ill from drink and a larger number whose personalities and lives have dramatically changed because of it. Drink affects people’s lives, period.

Everything we do in life carries a risk, including many that people enjoy. Daily we cross roads, drive cars, get on buses, trains and planes and assess and accept those risk, for ourselves. In my younger days I used to climb mountains; big ones, play rugby and do some generally stupid things. All these involved far greater danger than marginal changes in consumption of alcohol.

No reasonable person thinks drinking too much is good for them but when you look at the bare statistics now presented, the actual variations in risk are minimal: amounting to a one – two per cent increased “chance” of getting a cancer by a given age.

Dept of Health. Alcohol Guidelines Review –

Report from the Guidelines development group to the UK Chief Medical Officers

Sir David Spiegelhalter, Professor of Public Understanding of Risk, and Professor of Biostatistics, at the University of Cambridge, who was a member of the Guidelines Development group says himself:

“These guidelines define ‘low-risk’ drinking as giving you less than a 1% chance of dying from an alcohol-related condition; so should we feel ok about risks of this level? An hour of TV watching a day, or a bacon sandwich a couple of times a week, is more dangerous to your long-term health.”

There was something Dame Sally said though during the interview that really stuck in my craw and Charles Moore in his excellent article yesterday in The Telegraph, which I only saw this morning following a Tweet by @oldmudgie, also commented on.

It was towards the end of the interview when the conversation had switched from alcohol to a sugar tax, the latest nanny flub, when she said “I have already put industry on notice that if they don’t respond in other ways, we’re going to have to have a sugar tax.”

I thought immediately, just who the clucking bell does she think she is! …. She is a Civil Servant, a very well paid one I acknowledge, but not a Minister of H.M Government. Her role is advisory and (as its name suggests) medical, so you would think therefore her medical knowledge, should not necessarily qualify her to pronounce on tax policy, let alone impose it, but like the majority of Public Health zealots she sounded like she appeared to have no conception of this simple state of affairs.

It was The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence or NICE who back in June 2010 stated a minimum price for a unit of alcohol should be introduced to help tackle the rise in problem drinking in Britain. They have for the present lost that battle, but not war, in England and have I guess now changed tactics.

As Charles Moore says the model in their minds is tobacco. Having succeeded in virtually outlawing smoking, the Public Health Lobby now want to do the same with alcohol and if they can create the public “fact” there is no such thing as safe drinking, they can then attack everyone in the industry.

I believe this would be a massive camouflaged bear pit because once the over-riding principle has been conceded — the health lobby can then focus on throwing spears into the pit and the pressure will refocus on not whether, but when, a safe limit has been reached to produce the optimum effect on public health.

The danger is obvious, that the ‘safe limit’ would reduce over the years until it is seen to be having a meaningful effect on consumption — and then reduce some more, just so the health lobbyists are convinced it is having the desired effect.


Each tax year, figures show The Treasury raises £10.5 billion from alcohol tax which accounts for approx. 40 per cent of the total paid by all countries in the EU. And a report in 2013 by the Institute of Economic Affairs suggested that far from being a drain on society, drinkers were subsidising teetotallers as although excessive drinking costs the police, NHS and welfare system around £4billion a year, this is eclipsed by the £10.5billion raised by taxes.