Mar 5, 2014

Drunk on moral superiority: public health lobby’s nonsensical alcohol policy

Demonising the alcohol industry ignores evidence from previous successful public health campaigns, warns a senior public health figure.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The public health lobby’s unwillingness to engage with the alcohol industry is undermining campaigns to reduce drinking among at-risk groups, according to a senior public health figure who has hit out at the sector's attacks on the latest binge-drinking campaign. Last week DrinkWise, an alcohol industry-funded body that promotes healthier and more responsible drinking, released a series of ads aimed at encouraging more responsible drinking among young people. The "How To Drink Properly" ads -- in which an older, elegant male character provides tips on staying "classy" while drinking and knowing your limits -- were immediately savaged by public health figures.

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14 thoughts on “Drunk on moral superiority: public health lobby’s nonsensical alcohol policy

  1. Dez Paul

    The Puritans are at it again. Those DrinkWise ads are clever and likely to work, judging by the comments on Youtube.

  2. Philip Darbyshire

    Whatever would we do without Bernard! Spot on again. There are times when my fellow health professionals’ self-righteousness and moral certitude makes me sicker than a few nice cold beers ever could.

  3. Tamas Calderwood

    Great article Bernard. The wowsers are at it again.

  4. Coaltopia

    Prohibition could be fun though…

  5. Salamander

    So what make Mike Daube change his approach? As an academic he probably has a reason.

  6. Dianne van Dulken

    I saw this yesterday on upworthy absolutely applauding the ads. I do think a bit of humour goes a long way and the ads are fanatic.

  7. [email protected]

    Use of an anonymous source is bad practice. The critics are on the record, and this person wants to slam them from behind a veil of anonymity, while maintaing the cred of “senior public health figure”

  8. Andrew Pengilley

    The alcohol industry sells alcohol. Ergo, nothing it endorses will reduce the amount of alcohol sold. Lots of people like drinking, ergo people will resist anything that reduces the amount of alcohol available to drink. Many people are in denial about the cost and health effects of alcohol consumption, ergo they will endorse anything which pretends that a non-challenging, fun campaign will be effective, and they will shoot any messenger which says otherwise. Public health does not have a problem with smugness, it has a problem with being the field of medicine most involved in telling people things they just don’t want to hear. Generally, eventually, people either stop listening – and society just lives with the downside – or people wake up – and something effective gets done like reducing access, increasing cost and dispensing with ineffective genuflections to the pretence of education influencing the behaviour of rational actors. I guess we’ll just have to see what the chronic disease, violence, and general mayhem tolerance of Australia is. The US has 30K gun deaths each year and I don’t see them listening to any smug advice, so when you can get people turned around a society can put up with quite a bit.

  9. Northy

    Bernard is one of those commentators who also decries any restrictions whatsoever on alcohol, despite overwhelming evidence that it’s effective. I’m pretty sure Bernard would have been vehemently opposed to the NSW government’s 3am alcohol cut-off. Yet we’ve seen stunning results in Newcastle from a similar approach, with multiple studies coming out recently showing the dramatic reduction in violence that can be achieved through reduced trading hours (4000 less assaults over the past 5 years). Meanwhile, the first big weekend of the new laws in Sydney already had St.Vincent’s hospital thrilled with the lack of emergency admissions (and it was Mardi Gras weekend!) and the Police equally excited based on early signs. Yet the industry couldn’t have been more opposed to these laws; laws that will help to change the alcohol culture in Sydney and save lives.

  10. Michael Jones

    “The logic of demonising alcohol as like tobacco, though, is obvious to the public health industry: work at it long enough and you might be able to restrict and then start banning alcohol altogether. Perhaps it also gives public health campaigners a warm moral glow that they’re fighting more forces of evil now that tobacco is receding as a threat.”

    Pretty clear who’s got the issues here.

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