Yesterday I went to the dentist. They had me fill in a medical status form. The dentist asked me about my alcohol consumption (perhaps because I had written “substantial” on the form), and proceeded to harangue me about the dangers of alcohol. For him, the liver damage seemed marginal — but he was keen to tell me about cancers of the mouth and throat.
It was only my innate courtesy (and perhaps a fear of the drill) that prevented me from telling him in forthright terms that I was paying him for dental treatment, not joyless anti-alcohol propaganda.
Of course the state has a legitimate interest in public health, and no one should be concerned that the state points out the various risks of excessive alcohol consumption. But with doctors and dentists and wine bottle labels hectoring us with advice, we’ve reached an “Enough is Enough” point. For heaven’s sake, guys, back off, and give us a moment to enjoy a glass of wine in peace.
We are approaching the stage where the government thinks it has a right to wrap us up entirely in cotton wool. After all, if we get ill through our own ill-advised behaviour, are we not an extra cost for the NHS? But on the other hand, are we to stop or constrain every activity merely because injury would involve costs to the health service? Most people have a lively sense of their own well-being, which is driven by more pressing concerns that the cost to the tax-payer.
Are we to stop sea-swimming or mountain climbing or hang gliding because of the risks involved? Are we to tell little Johnnie that he can’t go to rugby practice for fear of a broken collar-bone?
We already have proposals in Scotland for a social worker for every child — an outrageous and intrusive proposition. How soon before every adult drinker has a government apparatchik beside him with a calculator totting up drinks for the day and offering precautionary advice?
The guidelines offered by government are open to question on many grounds. First of all, the guidelines themselves seem a bit arbitrary, and have been widely questioned. They don’t seem to reflect any major epidemiological studies.
Secondly, they are far too general. Different people metabolise alcohol, and respond to it, in different ways. It’s not only weight, but clearly a ten stone man is likely to feel more effect from three units of alcohol than a twenty stone man.
Thirdly, it’s none of their business. If grown-up people, aware of the dangers, choose to indulge in risky behaviour, that’s up to them. We’ve had quite enough of regulatory over-reach and government intrusion.
But now they’ve gone even further. Not content with average daily/weekly consumption, they’re actually proposing a special “Saturday night” figure for “binge drinking”. This is absurd to the point of farcical. It may also be counterproductive in its own terms, as it seems to sanction binge drinking as a legitimate activity. Maybe all those civil servants thinking up these daft schemes could be reassigned to some useful work — perhaps as Border Agency staff in Calais.
Frankly, I’m sick to death of government advice on alcohol consumption. It’s enough to drive a chap to drink.
Note: I should declare a personal interest here. I worked for United Distillers (now Diageo) in Korea and Singapore for four years in the 1980s. And I enjoy a glass of Talisker before bed-time.