Monday, May 28, 2007

Nanny in the Saloon Bar

New Drinks Label
Irresponsible New Drinks Label
TV news has had a lot of coverage of the voluntatry agreement between health ministers and the drinks issue over health lables on alcohol. I think the public health minister Caroline Flint's team must have had one too many units at lunchtime before signing off on this scheme. Looking at the minister herself's track record I don't think it would really matter whether or not she had, even for a member of this governent she has a history of backing entheusiastically any interfering, nit-picking, liberty eroding measures her colleagues can come up with.

We're already used to the enigmatic 'Contains Sulphites' cropping up on many bottles of wine we buy. I'm not sure if this is a warning or an endorsement. My chemistry is good enough to know what sulphites are, but my physiology knowledge too poor to know if they are good for me or bad for me. In the end it just takes up space that could better be used for more interesting information about the wine's pedigree. But let's put aside the aesthetics of plastering your nice bottle of burgandy with these ugly lables. Will they actually have any effect? Actually I think they will.

According to the minister.
"This landmark, voluntary agreement will help people calculate, at a glance, how much they are drinking...

"This is about helping people to make the right choices."

Caroline Flint
Irresponsible Minister
Wow, for once I find myself in agreement with Flint. Every chav in the land will no longer have to rely on anecdotal evidence to decide whether it is getting down 10 Smirnoff Ices or 12 vodka and cokes before vomitting that makes you the hardest. Even in the most moronic groups someone will be able to do the maths. Even among less unpleasant boozers I can imagine the range of new drinking games we will be able to come up with.

Yes, we have a binge drinking culture, and yes it is a problem, but when it comes to the binge drinking culture I can really see this proving more part of the problem than the solution in the long term. Anyone who has seen the way the binge drinkers use the alcohol by volume figures on premium lager pumps to help pick their drinks and peer pressure their friend's choices will know that the effect of this labeling can only be negative.

As for the government's Chief Medical Officer's recommended limits, sorry Sir Liam Donaldson, but considering the quality of recommendations from this government's professional advisors, I think I'll be sticking to my own recommended figures which are somwhat different.

Naturally, the pressure groups behind the scheme have been somewhat lukewarm in their response the proposals. According to Don Shenkar of alcohol concern,
"In terms of cans and bottles, it's a very good first step" (My emphasis)

Why is that 'first step' uttered by the representatives of pressure groups fill sane people of a libetatrian bent with such utter terror. Experience I guess. Some of the extreme fringe anti-drinking campaigners have suggested a legally enforced daily limit. Sadly with these types of organisation, what was once fringe and extreme can very quickly become mainstream thinking and then, with a suitably illiberal government, the law of the land. Already the tone of disappointment that it is a 'voluntary arrangement' is coming through loud and clear.

Another rant on the nanny in the saloon bar to follow...

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