You may have missed a report published at the start of the month, entitled The Public Health Burden of Alcohol and the Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Alcohol Control Policies.
Produced by Public Health England (PHE), the government agency that likes to think it’s a protestant pressure group, it is 241 pages of ill-researched and tendentious twaddle. And if you notice anyone quoting it, please refer them immediately to Velvet Fist Iron Glove, the blog run by the Institute of Economic Affairs’ Chris Snowdon.
In a two-part, tour-de-force of a take-down, the inventor of ‘lifestyle economics’ shreds the dodgy dossier – and we’ll run some of his highlights next week (including the retraction that he forced out of PHE).
But for now, let’s just concentrate on PHE’s completely unnecessary recommendation that all booze should be sold with warnings similar in grizzliness to those on cigarettes, and that plain packaging should replace all those lovely old wine labels and alco-pop logos. To quote Snowdon:
“When the authors want to downplay the effectiveness of current alcohol warnings … they say this:
There is a general consensus among experts that alcohol labels have been poorly implemented and this may, in part, explain the finding that labels are ineffective in changing drinking behaviour (304,307).
“If the citations are any guide, the ‘general consensus’ is the result of two anti-alcohol campaigners agreeing with one another. Reference 304 was written by Robin Room. Reference 307 was written by Tim Stockwell. Stockwell’s article isn’t even from a peer-reviewed journal.
“With this ‘consensus’ in place, the authors turn to expert opinion on what alcohol packaging should look like:
With regards to health warnings, expert opinion informed by the experience of tobacco, suggests alcohol warning labels should be designed and implemented as follows (314):
– develop research to identify ‘direct’ and ‘evidence-based’ health warnings
– increase the visibility of the warnings
– incorporate pictorial health warnings
– consider plain packaging for alcohol products
“‘Expert opinion’ here refers to the views of a single researcher, a doctoral student in occupational psychology called Mohammed Al-hamdani (reference 314).”
Snowdon nails PHE over and over again; and if the Government is genuinely recalibrating, to address the ‘concerns of ordinary people’, it would do well to reject this report.
As the Brexit vote showed, the majority can smell a rat when supposedly-objective experts are deployed to lobby for vested interests. When the expertise is of so low calibre as PHE’s, it stinks to high heaven.