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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.

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.

17
  • 1
    Phen
    Posted Thursday, 31 July 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Spot on. These lobby groups are reaching the point of being counter-productive, and its time their funding was seriously questioned.

  • 2
    4567
    Posted Thursday, 31 July 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    are capable of working out for themselves the right balance in what they consume”

    Oh, I know the right balance alright, but I often ignore it … guess that’s just me…or perhaps it’s not just me.

    I really don’t think it is just me.

    I have not issues with the campaign.

  • 3
    ShitsGottaStop
    Posted Thursday, 31 July 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Hear!, Hear!
    Also as Phen @ #1 says.
    Making up, confecting, or twisting statistics, is no way to engender behaviour change in the population.
    Despite the success of such tactics in other spheres…

  • 4
    David Hand
    Posted Thursday, 31 July 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    100% of all smokers die.

    And 96% of all people die in bed.

  • 5
    AR
    Posted Thursday, 31 July 2014 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Well said, OneHand - let’s ban beds.
    In the meantime, BK should get off his high horse, however sozzled it may be.

  • 6
    Chucky in Canberra
    Posted Thursday, 31 July 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Just because it doesn’t suit the Crikey lifestyle, it doesn’t mean that a denialist position is acceptable. The latest peer reviewed research outcomes show adverse affects from the first glass (not just the first glass each day). And anyway, a Crikey editorial criticising others for overreach? That’s rich.

  • 7
    Northy
    Posted Thursday, 31 July 2014 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Let me guess - this editorial was written by Keane! We have a problem with alcohol in this country; to deny that is to be blind to the reality of the situation. The power of the liquor and hotel lobbies is immense. Without groups like FARE we’d never have the sort of alcohol policy that has been introduced in Sydney (last drinks at 3am etc.) which is saving lives and has reduced assault admissions at St. Vincent’s Hospital by 50%.

    Phen: FARE does not receive public funding.

  • 8
    Posted Thursday, 31 July 2014 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Alcohol causes some problems, but people need something to relieve the pressures of life. If alcohol is denied them comfort will be found in other drugs. Alcohol isn’t markedly worse than the alternatives: its effects and dangers are well known in the community and reasonably well handled by most. If by some miracle the government managed to suppress all drugs peoples’ unhappiness would be directed thru other more destructive channels.

  • 9
    Sailor
    Posted Friday, 1 August 2014 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    David Hand @ 4
    “100% of all smokers die.”

    Irony is not your strong suit, if I interpret your cack-handed effort correctly. Nor is logic, from my previous experience of your odd lack of reasoning based on observable fact.

    To say that people who eat tomatoes for a long time develop wrinkles, have failing hearing & eyesight, if male go bald & if female go white-haired, become tottery & eventually fall off the twig, is equivalent & just as irrelevant as your weird statement.

    100% of all of us die. On that we surely agree - let’s not limit ourselves to smokers though. For some, IMHO, whether smokers or not, it can’t come too soon, and I am NOT looking at you when I write that but into the ghastly pool of leaders we currently endure in Federal Parliament.

  • 10
    CML
    Posted Friday, 1 August 2014 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    That 100% of people die is not in contention. What is the principal cause of death, is the argument.
    But guess what - once you’re dead, that’s the end of the matter! So who cares about the cause?
    Might as well be here for a good time, rather than a long time! This public health lot need to get a life, before it’s too late!!!!

  • 11
    David Hand
    Posted Friday, 1 August 2014 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Well Sailor, at least you worked out my post is an attempt at irony though I concede it was a pretty pathetic attempt with two statistically accurate statements that are utterly meaningless.

    Good grief, I am explaining irony now. I’d better stop.

  • 12
    AR
    Posted Friday, 1 August 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    The last 3 words, if enacted, would be best appreciated.
    I always assumed that, like your neocon betters, you lacked the irony gene. QED.

  • 13
    Andrew Male
    Posted Friday, 1 August 2014 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Agreed. We need less of us, anyway. Heavy drinking is a sure path to a happy life, and a proportionate death. Who needs to stick around beyond 75? Seriously?

  • 14
    AR
    Posted Friday, 1 August 2014 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Andy - spot on. I didn’t start drinking until near retirement, having built a large collection over a couple decades with a sole purpose.
    Barely made a dent yet but am trying.

  • 15
    David Hand
    Posted Saturday, 2 August 2014 at 2:10 am | Permalink

    Well I’d better keep posting then AR. I think I can do irony quite well. I particularly find it ironic that I posted a comment that supports the contention of the article. That’s all.

  • 16
    David Hand
    Posted Saturday, 2 August 2014 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    I posted a comment that supports the article and still get my obsessive fan base having a crack at me.

  • 17
    AR
    Posted Saturday, 2 August 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    OneHand - a single swallow does not a summer make.

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