Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A Festive New Puritan Scare Story from a Bradford Doctor!


I’ve just about sobered up enough now to be annoyed about this appalling exercise in misrepresentation and misdirection from a Bradford doctor:

He warned against the “pocket money alcohol business” and said he had seen people in their twenties die on his ward from liver disease caused by irresponsible drinking.

He said that youngsters as young as 12 were being seen by medics after drinking too much before their livers were fully formed.

“He” – in this case one Dr Paul Southern - is playing an interesting game. There is no doubt that “youngsters as young as 12” have been “seen by medics” but Dr southern wants us to believe that this is somehow commonplace. And therefore he presents no real information relying instead on our instinctive ‘he’s a doctor and we can trust him’ response to such information.

In 2010 there were 4,609 deaths from liver conditions attributable to alcohol, a figure that has risen slightly during the last ten years (not surprising given the significant increase in alcohol consumption from 1980 to around 2000). Of those deaths just one was of a teenager (15-19 not twelve) and 45 were of people in their 20s. Back in 2006 there were around 4,450 similar deaths – again with none of children aged under 15 but with 49 deaths of people on their 20s.

There is little or no evidence to support Dr Southern’s contention that the problem is getting worse – back in 1999 there were over 3,500 deaths but the numbers for children and people in their 20s remain more-or-less unchanged. Every year there are around 40 or so deaths from alcohol-related liver conditions among those aged under 30 – this isn’t due to this:

Bradford has up to 25,000 highly dependent drinkers and up to 120,000 drinking harmfully, according to Dr Paul Southern, a consultant hepatologist at Bradford’s Royal Infirmary.

The problem – and it’s not a new one – comes from a small number of people seriously abusing alcohol over a considerable period of time. To reduce this problem (and we won’t eliminate it, that’s for sure) the solution is not “taxation” as Dr Southern suggests – we already have very highly taxed drink which results in smuggling, black market distribution and illegal production.

The solution is to treat the individual with a drink problem – to work with them to reduce the harm they’re doing to themselves. Simply making it more expensive for people without a problem to drink is both illiberal and guaranteed to fail.


1 comment:

Curmudgeon said...

Whenever doctors and others speak of "alcohol at pocket money prices" it would be interesting to get them to name the products they are referring to, and to demonstrate that they have some kind of disproportionate involvement in alcohol-related health problems.

In reality, the UK has about the third-highest alcohol duties in the European Union, and in no meaningful sense can alcoholic drinks in this country be regarded as cheap.

If anything really is available at "pocket money prices", then that suggests one or both of it being very weak and in a very small measure.