No wonder Britain’s alcohol guidelines are so extreme – just look at who drafted them

I’ve been reading the minutes of the meetings held by the committee that reviewed the alcohol guidelines recently. You may recall that this was the first full review since 1995 and led to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Sally Davies, lowering the recommendations for men from 21 to 14 units a week. The female guidelines were left at 14 units. She also claimed that the health benefits derived from moderate drinking were an ‘old wives’ tale’ and claimed that there was ‘no safe level of alcohol’.

The most striking difference between the 1995 review and the 2016 review is the make-up of the panels. Whereas the 1995 committee was dominated by civil servants who had no obvious prejudices for or against alcohol, the meetings held from March 2013 to discuss alcohol guidance were dominated by activist academics and temperance campaigners.

The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), a small but hardline anti-alcohol organisation, was heavily represented on the committee. The IAS was formed in the 1980s as a direct successor to the UK Temperance Alliance which, in turn, had been formed out of the ashes of the UK Alliance for the Suppression of the Traffic of All Intoxicating Liquors, a prohibitionist pressure group. The IAS receives 99 per cent of its income from the Alliance House Foundation whose official charitable objective is ‘to spread the principles of total abstinence from alcoholic drinks’. Its director, Katherine Brown, was on the CMO’s panel, as was its ‘expert adviser’ Gerard Hastings, although he failed to disclose his IAS role in his declaration of interests.

The IAS’s scientific adviser Petra Meier was also on the committee and was joined by her Sheffield University colleague John Holmes. Holmes and Meier are both strong advocates for minimum pricing and helped develop a computer model which has been repeatedly used to promote minimum pricing by producing estimates of the number of lives that will supposedly be saved by the policy.

Another staunch anti-alcohol campaigner, Ian Gilmore (chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, of which the IAS is a key member), was unable to attend the first meeting but was involved thereafter. Gilmore has campaigned for many years for higher alcohol taxes, minimum pricing and a total ban on alcohol advertising.

Other members of the committee may have been less strident than Gilmore and the IAS but there was no doubt where their biases lay. Mark Bellis wrote an article for the British Medical Journal in 2011 complaining that existing alcohol guidance was too generous and ‘read more like an alcohol promotion slogan’. Mark Petticrew and Theresa Marteau are both strong advocates of a range of heavily interventionist ‘public health’ policies, including sugar taxes, plain packaging and minimum pricing.

Of those who attended the initial meetings in 2013, only three did not explicitly advocate stricter alcohol control: the health economist Martin Buxton, the health sociologist Sally Macintyre, and the epidemiologist Valerie Beral. The latter appears to have been selected because of her research linking alcohol to breast cancer, which would become a crucial element in the ‘no safe level’ narrative.

The minutes of a meeting in June 2013 indicate that the path towards dismissing the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption was mapped out from an early stage. Mark Petticrew told his new colleagues: ‘The beneficial effects of alcohol consumption, where they are evidenced, are limited to a low consumption level of half a drink per day.’ Moreover, he said, ‘The population cohort who experiences any beneficial health effect from alcohol is very small. Given these limitations, there is an argument that beneficial effects could be considered not to be relevant in the context of an overall population message, advice or guidance.’

These bald assertions were based on private meetings held between Petticrew and two alcohol researchers, Jurgen Rehm and Tim Stockwell, a fortnight earlier. As a result of this information, the minutes of the 25 June meeting state that the group ‘agreed that a key message from the Rehm/Stockwell discussion is that the evidence shows that any amount of alcohol increases the risk of cancer. Therefore it cannot be said that there is such thing as a “safe” limit.’

Here were the two central messages that would be transmitted, almost word for word, to the British public two and half years later — that the benefits of moderate consumption had been much exaggerated and there is no safe level of drinking. This new narrative appears to have arisen from nothing more than a private meeting with two researchers. Rehm has strong views on alcohol policy (he advises governments to ‘treat alcohol like tobacco’) and he is a respected alcohol researcher but his views, as ventriloquised by Petticrew, bear little relationship to what he told the BBC after the guidelines were announced. On BBC Radio 4’s More or Less programme, he made it clear that there was good evidence that moderate alcohol consumption reduced the risk of heart disease and other diseases. Rehm’s own research concluded that the protective effect of alcohol on heart disease was ‘hard to deny’ and not just for those who consume ‘half a drink a day’, as Petticrew claimed, but for larger quantities too. Rehm’s 2012 systematic review found that heart disease risk was at its lowest for men drinking around four units a day, with a lower optimal level for women.

While Rehm’s views may have been misreported by Petticrew, those of Tim Stockwell were not. Stockwell is the world’s most persistent and prominent critic of the evidence showing that moderate alcohol consumption saves lives. His various letters, editorials and studies casting doubt on the benefits of drinking were given a hugely disproportionate prominence in the 2016 guidance. It is telling that Petticrew’s first act was to approach Stockwell and allow his controversial opinion to frame the debate.

The other striking difference between the 1995 review and the 2016 review is the range of evidence put before the respective committees. Whereas the 1995 panel received dozens of submissions, the minutes of a March 2013 meeting show Sally Davies’s team explicitly rejecting a call for evidence, preferring instead to rely on their own wisdom. Several new reports were commissioned, but all were co-authored by members of the committee.

Most of these were commissioned from the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University and co-written by Mark Bellis. One of them, entitled ‘A summary of the evidence of the health and social impacts of alcohol consumption’, did its utmost to cast doubt on the benefits of alcohol consumption.

Sceptics such as Stockwell often claim that non-drinkers have a lower life expectancy than moderate drinkers because many of them are unhealthy former drinkers. Despite many studies showing that moderate drinkers also live longer than lifetime abstainers, this zombie argument continues to be made and it reappeared in Bellis’s report for the committee. He was, however, forced to admit that studies which have controlled for this potential confounder still found a protective effect. The draft document concedes: ‘A few meta-analyses have sought to account for such bias, and based on the extent to which this misclassification error can be accounted for, compared with lifetime abstainers a protective association appears to remain for type-2 diabetes, ischaemic heart disease, and ischaemic stroke.’

This was undoubtedly true. The Liverpool report included a summary of epidemiological studies showing that risk from several major diseases is lowest for people drinking between 1.5 and 8.5 units a day and that risk only reverts to that of an abstainer at a level of at least 4 units a day (or 28 units a week). The authors did not dwell on this evidence. Instead, they immediately suggested that there were ‘further reasons to suggest that the beneficial effects of alcohol consumption may currently be overestimated’, a vague claim for which the only citation was an opinion piece by Tim Stockwell.

The Liverpool document has since been made available to the public but the published version has been edited to further obfuscate the benefits of drinking. Whereas it previously acknowledged the evidence that moderate drinking reduces the risk of type-2 diabetes, ischaemic stroke and heart disease, it now only mentions heart disease and Stockwell’s opinion is given added prominence. The passage quoted above has been replaced by the following: ‘A few meta-analyses have sought to account for such bias; for example a recent meta-analysis, which reported that light to moderate alcohol consumption was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular outcomes, included lifetime abstainers as a reference category in sensitivity analyses. However, Stockwell et al question the robustness of the conclusions generated from this literature…’

By November 2013, Mark Petticrew had already drafted the committee’s conclusions. He acknowledged that many studies have found a ‘J-shaped relationship between alcohol consumption and total mortality’ but after considering evidence from Liverpool John Moores University and his conversations with Rehm and Stockwell (no other evidence was mentioned) he claimed that the ‘estimates of the size of this protective [effect] are likely to be biased’. Petticrew had no such concerns about flaws in the epidemiology of cancer, however: ‘For cancers there is clear and consistent evidence of a linear relationship. Alcohol is carcinogenic with no safe lower limit.’

The draft guidelines concluded that the benefits of alcohol consumption, such as they were, mainly affected people over the age of 50 and only related to heart disease. The latter is untrue (the evidence before the committee clearly showed a protective effect for other diseases) and the former is largely irrelevant (heart disease is rare among people under 50). Despite portraying the benefits as only applying to older people, Petticrew advised against telling them to drink alcohol. ‘Discussion at previous meetings,’ he wrote, ‘was along the lines of: if someone >65 is not currently drinking, then the evidence is not strong enough to recommend them to start; however if they are currently drinking more than the lower limit, then they should reduce their consumption.’

It was becoming clear that the bar for what constituted good evidence was being set much higher for benefits than it was for risks. The idea that the government should recommend moderate alcohol consumption to people who did not drink was regarded as unthinkable, regardless of the health benefits.

When a second draft of the guidelines was written at the end of January 2014, an even harder line was taken and a new argument had been found. Having whittled away the benefits of drinking until they applied only at a low level to a single disease among one section of the population, Petticrew explained that heart disease in Britain was not the killer it once was and, therefore, ‘irrespective of whether any protective effect is real or artefactual, any positive impact on total mortality is likely to decline as mortality from IHD [ischaemic heart disease] continues to decline’. No one seems to have raised the possibility that heart disease rates have declined in the last 50 years partly as a result of rising alcohol consumption, nor was it pointed out that heart disease — declining though it may be — still kills more people than all the ‘alcohol-related’ cancers combined.

At this stage, however, there was little to suggest that the male drinking guidelines would be reduced to bring them in line with those of women. The Liverpool report had shown clear differences in risk for men and women, and a presentation viewed by the committee on 10 September 2013 showed different J-curves for both sexes. The draft conclusions of November 2013 noted that alcohol’s ‘cardioprotective effect on total mortality is observed at a much lower level of consumption for women’ and almost every country in the world has higher guidelines for men.

This began to change after the committee, via Public Health England (PHE), commissioned some computer modelling to help formulate the final guidelines. In the minutes of a September 2014 meeting it was noted that ‘the PHE tender exercise had resulted in just one bid and that the bidder would be interviewed in early October to explore their proposals’. We must presume that the lone bidder was Petra Meier and John Holmes’s team at Sheffield University since it was they who won the contract.

It remains puzzling why a theoretical model was deemed necessary when so much epidemiological data exists to show the effect on morbidity and mortality from different levels of alcohol consumption. We may never know how the model was put together — the published Sheffield report does not provide enough data to allow independent replication — but one thing is clear: its risk curves bear no relationship to any risk curves in the published epidemiological literature. Whereas observational epidemiology shows lower rates of mortality for people drinking up to 4-8 units per day, the Sheffield model suggests that drinkers’ mortality risk is lower than abstainers only at very low intakes and exceeds that of abstainers at around two units per day. Moreover, while epidemiological studies find that men can drink more than women before assuming the same risk as a teetotaller, the Sheffield report finds similar limits for both sexes.

It is not even clear what the Sheffield report is measuring. The key criterion for gauging a safe drinking level is the risk of death, ie mortality risk, but the Sheffield report instead focuses on mortality from ‘chronic alcohol-related causes’. It is obvious that non-drinkers are less likely to die from alcohol-related causes, but it tells us nothing about overall mortality.

Moreover, the team stripped out all health benefits from drinking with the exception of heart disease. In their response to a comment from the peer-reviewer (who, interestingly, said ‘I predict that there will be very little, if any, change to the guidelines’), the team stressed that ‘excepting cardioprotective effects, the report focuses exclusively on the negative consequences of drinking’. This was certainly true and, like Petticrew and Bellis, the Sheffield team went out of their way to cast doubt on the cardiovascular benefits. In the space of two sentences, they described the protective effect on the heart as ‘disputed’, ‘overestimated’ and suggested that the scientific consensus was moving towards the view that the benefits barely existed at all. This passage contains ten references, half of which were articles or op-eds written by Tim Stockwell.

In short, the Sheffield team produced a theoretical model that was entirely divorced from the epidemiological evidence. The model appeared to show that a ‘safe’ level of drinking — if defined as carrying no more risk than abstaining from drink — was significantly lower than had been reported in a large body of epidemiological research. The model also deviated from observational epidemiology by showing this ‘safe’ level to be similar for men and women alike. Indeed, it actually reported a higher level for women. When a computer model clashes with observed reality so conspicuously, it is time to bin the model. Instead, the CMO’s committee binned the real world evidence and used the model as the basis of its recommendations.

By April 2015, the only question was how to sell the new advice to the public. Having failed to completely erase the health benefits of drinking, the group were concerned about the public being encouraged to drink even small quantities of alcohol. The group emphasised that there was ‘now no justifiable case to recommend that anyone should choose to start drinking alcohol in the interests of their health’. Their message to those who already drank below the current lower risk limit was that ‘should they wish to reduce their frequency or levels of drinking, [they] need have no health concerns in doing so’. Whatever the evidence might say, there was no doubt that the committee favoured total abstinence: ‘The message is quite clear that any level of drinking can be harmful to health’.

The statistician David Speigelhalter, who acted as an adviser to the committee in the latter stages, told them that ‘a message that “there is no safe lower limit” would risk being at odds with public opinion’, but it barely seemed to matter if the public found the new guidelines credible or realistic. A telling comment in one set of minutes indicates that the real intention was to influence policy: ‘It would be important to bear in mind that, while guidelines might have limited influence on behaviour, they could be influential as a basis for government policies, which could in turn help to alter norms.’

The new guidelines were announced on 8 January 2016. The committee had made every effort to downplay the benefits of moderate drinking, and Sally Davies delivered the final blow by dismissing those benefits as ‘an old wives’ tale’ on the Today programme. Nearly three years after cramming her committee with temperance campaigners and ‘public health’ activists, Davies went further than even Tim Stockwell could ever have hoped when he had that first chat with Mark Petticrew in June 2013. The job was done.


  • Stabledoor

    This story is quite extraordinary – well done for wading through all those documents to come up with an excellent demolition of the new guidelines. How do these people get to such a position of power and influence over our lives?

    • chrysostomos

      The vast majority of policy decisions and their implementation that affect us as voters and citizens directly are overseen by an unelected bureaucracy of civil servants who got the job by knowing the right people. Remember the airport border fiasco where the civil servants were overriding the Home Secretary’s policy of implementing stricter border controls?

      There should be term limits for civil servants just as their should for judges, MPs and ministers/PMs.

    • Colonel Mustard

      The common purpose revolving door mainly. The Quangocracy is crammed full of the same type of interchangeable networking people with zealously promoted single issue campaign agendas from the government subsidised charity sector and the egotistical idea that they are there to ‘lead beyond authority’ rather than serve the truth. Not impartial or objective but vehemently determined about what is good for us.

      It is a new, growth industry for the UK. Not a very productive one but undoubtedly lucrative for those involved. They get very highly paid for faddish virtue signalling and throwing their weight around!

      • Jen The Blue

        Quite so………what’s their motto? “Leadership without any authority or accountability”. I paraphrase only slightly.

  • putin

    That’s the problem with socialised medicine. When you give up control to the state they think they can tell you how to behave. Also, even though you actually pay ~11% of your salary for the NHS, they behave like they are doing you a favour because it’s “free”. So you lose any control that a normal consumer would have.

    • fundamentallyflawed

      I have just “railroaded” my GP into giving me a referral for a problem I have. Anybody with a laptop and google can tell that my symptoms and diagnosis are supported by the lab tests they have given me but because the results fall inside “lab range” they tell me they are fine instead.

      All the money and degrees in the world can’t change that attitude to deny treatment but the problem is unlike other areas there is no competition so unless you can afford to pay privately you are stuck.

      • Never mind rationing pain relief — I know about that, too. In America, it doesn’t happen.

  • Cim Thayne

    Incredible stuff.

  • lolexplosm

    How was this panel chosen? Were they alll hand picked by Davies and if so is there a reason? No internal or independent reviews for the panel, report etc?

    Any person in an equivalent position to Davies of any field should consider all the evidence and their relative weights, qualities and limitations in order to draw the best conclusions. To say the processes involved here were biased is an understatement.

    Then again we saw a similar thing happen with Wollaston.

    • Dunno about Wollaston and sugar, but I’ll bet it can’t be any worse than Lustig and sugar! Watch the first 15 second of this video where a University Public Health Expert compares sugar to the Bubonic Plague… but worse!
      See: http://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/news/2012/02/societal_control_of_sugar_essential_to_ease_public_health_bu.html

      Amazing eh? And if you continue watching it you’ll see the bobbleheads on his panel just sit there and continue to nod up and down agreement with every crazy statement he makes (although, truthfully, I don’t think ANYTHING can beat that opener!)

      When I was writing “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains” I wanted to end the book with a section that looked to the future. I titled it “Beyond Tobacco…” and predicted PRECISELY this sort of craziness of step-by-step Prohibition following same pattern as the “War On Smokers.”

      Here are the two ending paragraphs of Brains, the first one, from the Delaware News Journal May 18th, 2003, set off as a quoted bold indent in the print book itself:

      ==
      “It’s time that government, which has an enormous stake in the cost of health care, and insurance companies join forces with the medical professions to establish guide-lines for healthful behavior that can be enforced.”

      They were not just editorializing about smoking, but rather, as other paragraphs made clear, about eating and drinking habits as well. The concept of these three gigantic forces in our society, Big Pharma/Health, Big Insurance, and Big Government, all coming together to rule the minutiae of our lives is scarier than any other thought that could possibly close the Appendices to this book.
      ==

      Happy tippling Antismokers! You’ll reap what you’ve sown.

      – MJM

  • tantalotoo

    Yet another example of institutionalised entitlement to decree what’s best for us mere mortals deprived of the State’s monopoly on wisdom and behaviour. Fortunately, there are still enough individuals around, who can think for themselves, and bring common sense to their judgements and lifestyles. If only that were true of the majority of our European brethren. Perhaps, it is, and a more accountable and responsible future awaits!

  • Steve

    Send this article to every MP, ask if they have faith in the CMO or the guidelines

  • Daniel Hammond

    ………….Look who first invented the Passive smoking Fraud

    Hitler’s Anti-Tobacco Campaign

    One particularly vile individual, Karl Astel — upstanding president of Jena University, poisonous anti-Semite, euthanasia fanatic, SS officer, war criminal and tobacco-free Germany enthusiast — liked to walk up to smokers and tear cigarettes from their unsuspecting mouths. (He committed suicide when the war ended, more through disappointment than fear of hanging.) It comes as little surprise to discover that the phrase “passive smoking” (Passivrauchen) was coined not by contemporary American admen, but by Fritz Lickint, the author of the magisterial 1100-page Tabak und Organismus (“Tobacco and the Organism”), which was produced in collaboration with the German AntiTobacco League.

    That’s fine company are so called public health depts. keep with ehh!

    History can shed so much lite on todays own movement it just amazes the mind………..

    Hitler Youth had anti-smoking patrols all over Germany, outside movie houses and in entertainment areas, sports fields etc., and smoking was strictly forbidden to these millions of German youth growing up under Hitler.”

  • Daniel Hammond

    ……The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) could not even produce evidence that passive smoke is harmful inside, this is what they wrote prior to the smoking ban in article 9 OC255/15 9 “The evidential link between individual circumstances of exposure to risk in exempted premises will be hard to establish. In essence, HSE cannot produce epidemiological evidence to link levels of exposure to SHS to the raised risk of contracting specific diseases and it is therefore difficult to prove health-related breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act”. The reason the ban was brought in under the Health Act 2006, and not by the HSE, because no proof of harm was needed with the Health Act 2006, and the HSE have to have proof, seems the DM has lost rational thought about anything smoke related.

    • Lollylulubes

      The Air, According to Osha http://www.nycclash.com/CaseAgainstBans/OSHA.html

      “Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS.) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000)…It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded.”

      -Letter From Greg Watchman, Acting Ass’t Sec’y, OSHA, To Leroy J Pletten, PHD, July 8, 1997″

      “CALCULATING THE NON-EXISTENT RISKS OF ETS

      “We have taken the substances for which measurements have actually been obtained–very few, of course, because it’s difficult to even find these chemicals in diffuse and diluted ETS.

      “We posit a sealed, unventilated enclosure that is 20 feet square with a 9 foot ceiling clearance.

      “Taking the figures for ETS yields per cigarette directly from the EPA, we calculated the number of cigarettes that would be required to reach the lowest published “danger” threshold for each of these substances. The results are actually quite amusing. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a situation where these threshold limits could be realized.

      “Our chart (Table 1) illustrates each of these substances, but let me report some notable examples.

      “For Benzo[a]pyrene, 222,000 cigarettes would be required to reach the lowest published “danger” threshold.

      “For Acetone, 118,000 cigarettes would be required.

      “Toluene would require 50,000 packs of simultaneously smoldering cigarettes.

      “At the lower end of the scale– in the case of Acetaldehyde or Hydrazine, more than 14,000 smokers would need to light up simultaneously in our little room to reach the threshold at which they might begin to pose a danger.

      “For Hydroquinone, “only” 1250 cigarettes are required. Perhaps we could post a notice limiting this 20-foot square room to 300 rather tightly-packed people smoking no more than 62 packs per hour?

      “Of course the moment we introduce real world factors to the room — a door, an open window or two, or a healthy level of mechanical air exchange (remember, the room we’ve been talking about is sealed) achieving these levels becomes even more implausible.

      “It becomes increasingly clear to us that ETS is a political, rather than scientific, scapegoat.”

      • I think that’s the Gori/Mantel study. I did something similar for “Brains” but adapted it to theoretical “small bar/restaurant model” with low to moderate air exchange rates. To avoid accusations of having “cherry picked” just chemicals that would be in favor of my argument I chose seven that are commonly used in antismoking propaganda ALL OF WHICH began with the letter “A”.

        I used data for the total amounts of the chemicals emitted, both sidestream and mainstream, by standard cigarettes as noted in the 1999 Massachusetts Benchmark Study and the 1979 and 1986 Surgeon Generals Reports and computed how many cigarettes per hour would need to be burned in such a standardized “normal” type of setting before reaching the OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limit or Threshold Limit Values, values gathered from the State of California website at: http://www.dir.ca.gov/title8/5155ac1Frame.html to express the concentration of chemical safely allowed per cubic meter of air.

        In a small neighborhood bar, just 15 feet wide, 60 feet long, with a 12 foot ceiling, and with a very low air exchange rate for such an establishment by today’s standards, just three air changes per hour, here’s how many cigarettes you would have to burn EVERY HOUR before starting to exceed the “safe limit”:

        Acetaldehyde 13,500

        Acetone 1,256,470

        Acetonitrile 140,000

        Acrolein 473

        Ammonia 3,751

        Aniline 814,286

        Arsenic 375,000

        I also picked out three of the more popular ones Antismokers use from elsehwhere in the alphabet:

        Cyanide 8,380

        Formaldehyde 1,317

        Toluene 322,286

        Note that those numbers of cigarettes would have to be smoked EVERY HOUR in order to just barely touch the levels of safety concern. Note also that in a bar that size you’d have trouble fitting more than thirty or forty people on even the most crowded Friday or Saturday night.

        Put that together and you can see how ridiculous the worrisome claims of the Antismokers are. Particularly if the bar had a normally heavy customer load of about a dozen smokers and a normal modern air exchange/filtration rate of about ten per hour. In THAT scenario each smoker would have to smoke roughly 100 cigarettes per hour for even the most concentrated element level to be reached (Acrolein), while for Acetone, the element Antismokers warn you about as being “used in nail polish remover,” you would need those dozen smokers to each smoke over a quarter of a million cigarettes apiece, every hour.

        – MJM

  • Daniel Hammond

    ….
    ………

    This pretty well destroys the Myth of second hand smoke:

    Lungs from pack-a-day smokers safe for transplant, study finds.

    By JoNel Aleccia, Staff Writer, NBC News.

    Using lung transplants from heavy smokers may sound like a cruel joke, but a new study finds that organs taken from people who puffed a pack a day for more than 20 years are likely safe.

    Ive done the math here and this is how it works out with second ahnd smoke and people inhaling it!

    The 16 cities study conducted by the U.S. DEPT OF ENERGY and later by Oakridge National laboratories discovered:

    Cigarette smoke, bartenders annual exposure to smoke rises, at most, to the equivalent of 6 cigarettes/year.

    146,000 CIGARETTES SMOKED IN 20 YEARS AT 1 PACK A DAY.

    A bartender would have to work in second hand smoke for 2433 years to get an equivalent dose.

    Then the average non-smoker in a ventilated restaurant for an hour would have to go back and forth each day for 119,000 years to get an equivalent 20 years of smoking a pack a day! Pretty well impossible ehh!

    • disruptivethoughts

      I’d rather have a smoker’s lungs than no lungs at all!

  • James Pickett

    Wow. Just wow. As with climate change, models are used to trump evidence – it’s about time HMG were called out on that.

  • You *DO* realize what “No Safe Level” means in the minds of these people, right? Alcohol is HIGHLY volatile. While a burning cigarette puts out only one-half of a single milligram of chemically discrete Class A1 Human Carcinogen as it burns its length, single martini sitting on a restaurant table for an hour puts out A FULL GRAM … i.e. 2,000 times as much deadly carcinogen going into the air that all the diners, their children, and the poor folks forced to work there are forced to breathe.

    Remember: “No Safe Level” — Alcohol causes cancers on the mucous membranes of the mouth, throat, larynx, etc etc etc. and doesn’t matter if it’s applied to those membranes directly as liquid or coalesces on them while being breathed into innocent young lungs.

    Nice Pandora’s box we’ve opened, eh? Obviously indoor alcohol service at pubs must end immediately in order to put a stop to this wholesale wanton depraved slaughter-fest. Tell the Alkies they’re still welcome to drink. No one’s talking about Prohibition here! They just need to pop outside briefly, back by the dumpsters in the alleyways, and enjoy chugging their after dinner Dom Perignon while enjoying the fresh bracing air and scenic snowfalls and hailstorms before popping back in to enjoy a relaxed conversation with healthy human beings.

    Have fun! (And don’t say the smokers didn’t try to warn you over the last ten years!)

    – MJM

  • Chalcedon

    Packing a committee with extremists, who form only a tiny minority group and then giving the disproportional power of the conclusions and recommendations merits the sack. The old guidelines of around 28 units per week for men are perfectly in line with the Cochrane data base meta analyses of published clinical studies relating to acohol-based morbidity. The new guidelines are total rubbish. Mind you, so is the British unit of alcohol. the US unit at 15 grammes is nearly twice as big.

  • mumble

    The narrow purview of alcohol guidelines is the public safety aspect of drunken driving, an area where Britain long ago over-egged the pudding.

    That people should order their lives so as to maximise life-expectancy is an assumption contradicted by common observation. Some drug-users clearly love their drugs more than life. Others make frees and informed choices to indulge in life-shortening behaviours. Some smokers would rather have both smoking and the threat of emphysema than neither.

    For me, a drink and the craic down the pub is so obviously good for me that no counter-argument is possible from this soft-science sociology nonsense that intrudes fringe opinion even before experiment.

    There’s as much science in “A little of what you fancy does you good” than in some of the sanctimonious claptrap quoted above.

  • Oh good god. I don’t drink to get my greens. I drink wine because I LOVE the flavour, and the evening ritual, and the sense that we are cordoning off the workaday day. If these prigs mentioned in the article don’t like that, I don’t care. They can stuff it where the sun don’t shine, and I’ll go on enjoying life, thanks.

  • Jen The Blue

    95% of government health initiatives are utter twaddle based on political pressure from single issue fanatics.

  • anigel

    There should be rules against anyone involved in these committees being able to use or introduce any evidence that they have been involved in creating or funding. If you have been involved in the creation or funding of any reporting or papers into a topic then you are obviously biased towards your own findings or opeds no matter how well received or how they compare with the rest of the scientific literature on a topic.

  • Jeff

    Gated Communities

    Gated communities are taking on an important role in modern politics. Donald Trump grew up in a gated community, and made his fortune building gated communities that illegally exclude African-Americans. Trump’s approach is not based on ideology, but on consumer demand, and in particular, the demand of the working class to live in a place where there are no minority groups, criminals, wierdos or politically correct (Catholic educated) people.

    A gated community has a number of characteristics. There is ideally a six metre high concrete wall to keep out intruders. When the wall surrounds a very large number of houses, the average cost of the wall becomes insignificant. Getting past the security guards is like going through customs. Hence there is no crime in a gated community, and children can roam unsupervised in complete safety. Parents can be sure their daughters will not encounter males that would be unsuitable sons-in-law.

    Allotments are typically quarter-acre or five acres (one-tenth or two hectares). Houses are fireproof and of a similar appearance. Services are provided by underground ducts, including pneumatic mail delivery. Television and internet are unobtrusively censored.

    There is a shopping centre with a supermarket and other key shops. Prices are controlled to prevent gouging. There is a club for men and older boys from which women are excluded. On the top of the shopping centre is a hospital and old people’s home overlooking a race track and playing fields.

    There is a non-denomination church, which has leather sofas instead of pews, and wallpaper with pictures of saints like in an eastern orthodox church. The priest is a family man employed by the management committee. There is a co-educational school, so that if children conceive a passionate desire for a classmate, it will be someone of the opposite gender. The school has international baccalaureate and no homework.

    Once people move into a gated community, it occurs to them that, instead of their having to move into a gated community, it would be better if the “undesirables” were forced to live in ghettos, or were kicked out of the country altogether. No doubt this is what Donald Trump has in mind. The Conservative Party should take on board this trend in modern living and become the party for people who live or would like to live in gated communities. ex