While the title of this post might sound like an interesting rock group, the reality is rather more unpleasant. Today (Sunday) the BBC carries two health stories relating to what has become popularly known (well popularly known by organisations such as the WHO) as non communicable diseases – drinking and smoking.
Starting with the latter, another salvo in the war on personal choice has been successfully fired with the ban on cigarette vending machines. Anyone using such a device to sell ciggies will face a fine of up to £2,500. So there you have it; a legal product sold using a perfectly legal device is now illegal. Another small victory chalked up for the temperance movement as it marches steadily on, sweeping aside personal preferences in its insatiable desire to control what we imbibe.
The Department of Health said the ban had been introduced to prevent under-age sales to children and to support adults who were trying to quit.
Yes, really. And if you believe that cockwaffle, I’ve a nice beachfront condo in the Gobi that may be of interest to you. The justification is the usual carelessly tossed statistics designed to sound all scientific – apparently 11% of children who smoke use vending machines to get their fix. Taking away the vending machines apparently cures this problem. Also, apparently, the majority of smokers started when they were under 18. Yes? And? So? Given that the legal age for smoking is 16, so what? Apparently it is estimated that 35 million cigarettes are sold illegally through vending machines. In plain English, this means they made that one up because, actually, they don’t know and a nice big figure sounds suitably scary when justifying yet another ban designed to impinge on the personal choices of individuals. Oh, yeah and the Beeb just published it verbatim without a hint of challenge.
Moving onto the drinking story, we have the usual temperance stuff being rolled out – again, without any hint of a challenge from the organ presenting the story. So much for a lack of bias, then.
Alcohol, we are told by “experts” is a poison. Wow! Now they tell us. After all these centuries of fermenting the stuff and quaffing it down our throats, they tell us that alcohol is a poison. Of course it is. It always has been. However, it is a poison that taken in moderation provides a pleasure hit. The body breaks down the toxins and excretes them. So what?
Numerous heart studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption helps protect against heart disease by raising good cholesterol and stopping the formation of blood clots in the arteries.
You just know there’s a “but” coming, don’t you? And we are not to be disappointed:
However, drinking more than three drinks a day has been found to have a direct and damaging effect on the heart. Heavy drinking, particularly over time, can lead to high blood pressure, alcoholic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure and stroke. Heavy drinking also puts more fat into the circulation of the body.
There you go… Three drinks. What does that mean? Three pints of bitter? Three glasses of wine? Three bottles of scotch? The measure is meaningless. And, of course, the big C gets a mention. Not only does it cause your heart to give out, it will give you cancer. I wonder, sometimes, how come mankind has survived this long merrily knocking back the ale, wine and mead. By all accounts we should have been extinct by the time they built the pyramids at Giza. Not only that, it makes you infertile and undermines your immune system. Be afraid to go down to the pub or the offie, be very afraid…
Anyway, didn’t I read somewhere once that cigarette smoke is good for warding off nasty infections? So fags and booze together sort of balance each other out. Or was that some old wive’s tale my Gran told me while puffing away on her twentieth of the day and barely a moment of ill health in her ninety-three years? Probably. It sounds like something she would have said. She once wisely told me that with heart attacks, it was either the first or the last that carried you off, so I tended to listen to her sage advice. In her younger days, she liked a drop or two of the strong stuff, too. I’m surprised she lasted as long as she did. Doubtless the temperance folk will put her final demise with pneumonia down to her fags, booze and salty food lifestyle. After all, if she had abstained, she might have made ninety-four.
Why alcohol has this negative effect on all elements of our health could be down to acetaldehyde – the product alcohol is broken down into in the body.
There’s an interesting point here. If you have ever come across an alcoholic and I mean a genuine addicted alcoholic, not someone who just drinks a lot, then you may have noticed that their breath doesn’t smell of booze, it smells of acetone. Their body isn’t breaking the carbohydrates down properly and this stuff is bad for you as the article points out. However, normal folk will not even notice it as it is ultimately broken down into simpler carbohydrates and excreted. Still, “DNA damage” makes for a nice scary story, doesn’t it? Have you noticed all those deformed babies being born because of DNA damage caused by booze? No, me neither.
As this story progresses and gets scarier, we are told that alcohol is worse than heroin or cocaine. Well, given that alcohol is legally obtainable, perhaps the other two should be as well – a nice second income stream for tobacconists and publicans. Oh, right, wrong end of the stick…
So how much alcohol is too much? What can we safely drink?
This, then, is the killer question. The answer is probably as much as you like – preferably stopping before you fall down. For me, being teetotal, it is none at all – I’d be anybody’s after a glass of vino. I never did acquire the taste.
The government guidelines on drinking are being reviewed at present.
This is not encouraging. After all, the guidelines we already have are pure fiction plucked from the air. They have no basis in fact. None whatsoever. And I’ll keep mentioning it every time this fiction is wheeled out to justify more restrictions on alcohol.
They currently say that a women should not drink more than two to three units of alcohol per day and a man three to four units a day.
Yup. Those ones. Cockwaffle with knobs on. What is okay for you, may not be okay for me (remember that glass of white?). All sorts of factors will come into effect as we each have differing physiologies. The trick is to know one’s own limits. And, of course, that old adage about moderation in all things. However, if you choose to drink or smoke to excess to the detriment of your body, well, that’s your lookout providing you do no harm to others in the process. Your body, your business. Just don’t expect me to pick you up and carry you home, okay?
But Paul Wallace, a GP and chief medical adviser of Drinkaware, says people are just not aware of the alcohol content of a large glass of wine.
Ah, yes, Drinkaware, another of those egregious fake charities trotting out its temperance poison. I would suggest that most people do know and choose to ignore it. I would like to think that people are getting the message that the recommended limits are the product of modern Hans Christian Andersons. I live in hope, anyway.
“Most of us don’t realise what we’re drinking and you can very easily slip beyond acceptable limits.”
Acceptable – don’t you just love it when thy slip that one in? Acceptable to whom? What are acceptable limits? Who decides? And what business is it of the fake charities such as Drinkwatch and the parasitic clingers-on who mouth off on its behalf?
Katherine Brown, head of research at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, says the current guidelines and how they are communicated may be giving the public misleading information.
Indeed, they’re cockwaffle. Oh, that’s not what you meant, is it?
“We need to be very careful when suggesting there is a ‘safe’ level of drinking for the population. Rather, we need to explain that there are risks associated with alcohol consumption, and that the less you drink the lower your risk is of developing health problems.
“We hope the government use this as an opportunity to help change perceptions about regular drinking being a normal, risk-free practice.”
Actually, there is a reasonable point here. There are risks. I suspect that most people are aware of them – after all, they have been communicated enough over the past few decades. The reality is that people choose to either ignore the risks, assuming that it will never happen to them, or they accept that the benefits of the pleasure hit are more important to them than the long term risk. A risk that, for most drinkers, is miniscule as they drink in moderation and the human body is a remarkable machine that copes perfectly well with their level of intake. So, not really a problem.
Dr Sheron agrees: “There is no such thing as a safe level, but the government has got to draw a line somewhere. It’s a balance.
Bollocks and yes, quite. “No safe limits” is pure diamond encrusted twaddle. And, yes, it is a balance. However the line government should be drawing is a simple one; keep out of our lives and leave us to make our own decisions – and while you are at it, those cuts you keep harping on about? How about stopping funding to fake charities such as Drinkwatch, please?
“People like having a drink, but they have to accept there’s a risk-benefit ratio.”
Quite so. People have been doing just this for millennia, since we first discovered that fermenting the juice of the grape had an interesting side effect. Now leave us alone to carry on managing our lives as we see fit.