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Crikey Says

Jul 31, 2014

Crikey says: alcohol wowsers not helping public health

Keane looks at DFAT’s role in the WikiLeaks gag order. Forty job applications in a month? No problem with Stilgherrian’s AppApp. A ‘sad, dark, evil saga’: the ghost of Eddie Obeid still haunts NSW Labor. Mayne on Woodside: will they pull a Westfield? Kathy Jackson’s past. Alarm over Brandis push to expand terror laws. Razer on Dawkins and date rape. Targetted activist flees to Australia. And enter Crikey’s ‘escalator of decline’ talent quest.

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The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education got the media grab it wanted today with its new report: “Alcohol kills 15 Australians every day”. The ever-wowserish head of FARE, Michael Thorn, was on hand to lament that Australia’s “alcohol problem” isn’t getting any better. “There’s no question that alcohol has never been more affordable and more available in this country.”

As Crikey explained last week, that’s nonsense. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows Australians are drinking substantially less, even compared to just a few years ago, let alone decades ago, when we drank up to a third more than we do now.

As for FARE’s “15 a day” number, it’s a confection, devised by attributing alcohol as the primary factor in a range of causes of death, then adding up the numbers based on cause of death data. The study claims, for instance, that 54% of all deaths from breast cancer can be attributed to alcohol.

By ignoring independent data on alcohol and by inventing its own figures on the impact of alcohol, the public health lobby is becoming increasingly disconnected from the real world of Australians, who don’t view alcohol as akin to smoking (one of the goals of the public health lobby) and who have demonstrated they are capable of working out for themselves the right balance in what they consume.

If the public health lobby wants to have a meaningful positive impact on the lives of Australians, it needs to abandon the hysteria and start dealing with facts.

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