Nov 21, 2012

Alcohol control no nanny state conspiracy: preventive health lobby

Around Australia there are many people outside the preventive health sector who are working hard to combat the impact of too much booze, write health researchers Michael Thorn and Sandra Jones.

Bernard Keane’s skewed rant claims there is a public health conspiracy afoot. It is no conspiracy — the facts are clear.

Worldwide there are 60 million deaths annually attributable to non-communicable diseases. The four top risk factors are alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. Alcohol ranks third among these risk factors and is responsible for 2.5 million of these deaths.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

21 thoughts on “Alcohol control no nanny state conspiracy: preventive health lobby

  1. michael.burgun

    Sorry, I hear what your saying but I’m with Bernard here.

  2. dani fried

    Go, Michael and Sandra!! You’ve got my support. (And btw as a fatty-boom-bah who really would like to lose weight but finds it incredibly difficult, it would also be nice to see some money going into obesity surgery in public hospitals, rather than paying for the inevitable cost of diabetes later.)

  3. Mark from Melbourne

    Well said. Have to say I didn’t think much of Beakie’s article and I’m far from a teetotaller so should have been on his side.

  4. Cyndi

    “Bingeing by young people is a modern phenomenon”? So modern that kids were doing it when I was at school in the 70s.

    “Rapidly changing patterns of drinking, including the middle class’s new obsession with wine…” The horror.

  5. Tim

    Lots of good points – and I agree with the role of public health in determining good policy – but if you’re going to speak in terms of ‘rights’, it’s good to know what right you’re seeking to promote and how that right interacts with others.

    Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states[1]:

    “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

    So sure, that supports public health initiatives . But, as this treaty (and its sister Agreement, the ICCPR[2]) states:

    “Nothing in the present Covenant may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights or freedoms recognized herein, or at their limitation to a greater extent than is provided for in the present Covenant.” (Art. 5)

    and “the State may subject such rights only to such limitations as are determined by law only in so far as this may be compatible with the nature of these rights and solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare in a democratic society.” (Art. 4)

    So you have to be careful that, in promoting the right to health you don’t destroy other rights: e.g. self-determination; autonomy; privacy and non-discrimination (when it comes to, for example, raising the drinking age).

    Also, it’s disingenuous to say that “more than half of adult Australians support raising the legal drinking age” as a rational argument in favour of raising the drinking age – I’m sure “more than half” of 16-18 year-olds support keeping the drinking age at 18.

    I could of course also use examples of majorities supporting all kinds of discriminatory laws in the past (women voting, slavery, age of voting etc…).
    But I think it’s better to quote from the AIHW report you link to, namely:

    “Between 1993 and 2007, the daily drinking patterns of people in Australia aged 14 years or older remained largely unchanged, at around 8% (Table 4.1). However, in 2010, there was a statistically significant decrease (since 2007) in the proportion of people drinking daily (from 8.1% to 7.2%).” (p 46)

    The age group most likely to drink daily were those aged 70 years or older, for both males (18.4%) and females (12.0%) (Table 4.3). For people aged 12 years or older:
    • the peak for weekly drinkers was among those aged 50–59 years for males (50.6%) and those aged 40–49 years for females (40.9%)”
    (p 47)

    Finally, the business of selling alcohol is licenced. Not it’s possession. Just like I’d need a health and safety certificate to run a Café but not one to buy a coffee there.


  6. drmick

    Crapola on a shovel. We have been in “health” for the past 35 years. This mob have sucked hospital funding dry in an attempt to justify their existence at every level.
    Where are the fabulous results? People still die for lots of reasons, regardless of your health promotion.
    Their quality of life is directly the result of their economic situation & has little to do with much else.
    Who can prove that the money spent on preventative health and health promotion would not have been better spent on improving the bottom line of lower income earners? Better education, better decisions, better quality products and more appropriate decisions.

  7. Sean Baker

    thank you for this helpful and fact based analysis. Bernard Keane’s article was so full of straw men, inaccuracies and misquotes that i was inspired to write but defeated by the sheer volume of issues. Thank you for enumerating them so clearly and without rancour. Here’s to policies based on the evidence.

  8. ianjohnno1

    I’m with you drmick.

    These self-perpetuating, self-agrandising, self-righteous, grandstanding, rent-seeking, single-issue foundations have become a pestilence over the last couple of decades.

    We need a foundation dedicated to their elimination.

  9. GrumpyOK

    Why is it so hard ? Surely it’s a no-brainer.
    Too much alcohol is bad news.
    Alcohol should be taxed more !
    Who can argue ?
    Stop pandering to the nay-sayers.
    Just [email protected]#king bring it on.
    A uniform national volumetric alcohol tax.
    Just pick a number (10c/ml,say) adjust it up or down from time to time just to keep us guessing.
    Dead simple.
    A daily drinker, happy to pay alcohol tax.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details