Dear preventative health wowsers: stop taking the piss
The medical profession and the growing, taxpayer-funded preventive health industry are engaged in a constant campaign against basic rights in the name of forcing Australians to become healthier. Media coverage of the campaign is episodic and sporadic. But pieced together, the nature of the campaign becomes clear — even when confined to the recent past.
In September, the taxpayer-subsidised Australian Drug Foundation called for alcohol consumption to be banned on school grounds because drinking at fetes or BBQs “undermines the alcohol education programs for young people in schools”.
The same month, the Australian Medical Association called for the legal drinking age to be lifted to 25 (presumably because prohibition has worked so well in the past). In June, the AMA demanded a complete ban on alcoholic energy drinks.
Last week, Sandra Jones, director of the Centre for Health Initiatives at the University of Wollongong, attacked online wine sites for selling at “ridiculously low prices”, declaring (without evidence) “it’s typically young people who are more likely to be on social media and on these group buying sites”. Jones wants a minimum price for alcohol. Her comments are part of strengthening campaign from public health types to impose additional taxes on alcohol.
The new headquarters of the preventative health industry, the $9 million Australian National Preventive Health Agency, recently released a discussion paper proposing an increase in wine taxation and more research for a minimum alcohol price, including the localised imposition of a minimum price in some areas.
The call to make alcohol more expensive is propped up by some interesting maths about the alleged economic cost of alcohol. The taxpayer-subsidised Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education has released a commissioned report arguing not merely for a shift to volumetric alcohol taxation, but a lift in all alcohol taxes. The basis for the argument was the extraordinary claim that alcohol causes $15 billion per annum in “harm to others”, including nearly $8 billion pa in “loss of quality of life” (the basis for these numbers was disputed by Access Economics, on behalf of the alcohol industry).
The persistent demonisation of alcohol is a core driver of preventive health campaigning (Chris Berg pointed out one of the more absurd examples). In 2009, The Australian prised from the Commonwealth Department of Health a report that proposed to force employers to discourage alcohol consumption on the basis that “in some work settings, workers who do not normally drink in their own leisure time may find it expected of them by their colleagues or workplace” and that Australia’s drinking culture was “calculated hedonism”.
Another report from the National Drug Research Institute this year supported workplace breath-testing. This is despite the fact that as FARE itself admitted in a Senate inquiry submission, Australian alcohol consumption had fallen by nearly a third since 1975. The submission also claimed Australia’s level of consumption was “high by world standards”, a claim that only holds when non-developed countries are counted. Australia’s level of consumption is below that of virtually every European country, and often far below.
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