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Alcohol makes you annoying – new health risks revealed


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Friday, 28 October 2011

Alcohol makes you annoying – new health risks revealed

Public health minister Anne Milton told a committee of MPs that we are blind to the dangers of alcohol and deaf to the health warnings issued by governments. She stopped short of adding that it’s because some of us are too dumb to know better.

She said that the Department of Health was in “ongoing discussions” with the Treasury about the use of alcohol pricing to control consumption, but went on to say that setting a minimum price per unit for alcohol was “probably illegal”. 

It’s not easy being a minister for public health. When your sensible advice is not being ignored it is being ridiculed. The fundamental problem is that public health campaigns do not work. If they did, the public wouldn’t be so unhealthy.

It’s not the message but the messenger. Governments dispensing advice always sound like well meaning but out of touch parents. 

How Does Your Night End? is a leaflet produced a few years ago by the Department of Health and the Home Office.  You only need to get as far as the subtitle “Drinking, you and your mates” to know what you’re in for. 

The document lurches unsteadily from the unconvincing, jokey vernacular of badly imagined young people – “You and your mates are out on the town, having a laugh” – to a very dull and sober grown-up voice a few short paragraphs later, as if your hangover had kicked in early: “Pregnant women and women trying to conceive should avoid alcohol altogether and never drink more than 1-2 units once or twice a week”. 

There is nothing to be gained from reasoning with people. They respond much better to shock tactics. For example:

“There you were heading out for a few drinks with your mates and suddenly one of them turned in to the chief medical officer. Worse still, this fit girl you fancied said she wouldn’t let you cop off with her unless you had no more than two units of Stella. Complete downer.”  

The real leaflet goes on to dispense further earnest advice: “The more you drink, the easier it is to cross the line between being funny and being annoying,” it points out, blithely unaware that it is veering incapably across the same line. 

So raise a sympathetic glass to the minister. It’s difficult to come right out and say that tax revenue is a bad thing or that setting minimum pricing for booze is a daft idea, though clearly it is. 

Ms Milton responded to difficult questions with straight shots, admitting to “an appropriate degree of cynicism” about the alcohol industry’s responsible drinking campaigns and to a healthy scepticism about the effect of government guidelines.  

She also acknowledged the fundamental problem that people don’t take advice of any kind from governments. 

The minister only reached for the tonic water when it was put to her that Parliament should close some of its bars, to encourage sobriety in MPs or to set a good example to the rest of us. 

While she did not seek to excuse what she called MPs’ “risky behaviour”, she explained it with reference to their anti-social working hours and the time they spend away from their families. 

It’s so hard to tell the difference between cause and effect, particularly after a few large ones, but don’t let it spoil the fun next time you and your mates are out on the town having a few laughs.


SLygo says:
Oct 28, 2011 11:33 AM
I think a good proportion of the population could say that their "risky behaviour" was due to long or anti-social working hours, lack of sleep due to young family, stress etc. How hypocritical. Get tough on everyone's drinking habits and that inlcudes MPs.
giovanna.forte@funnellyenough.com says:
Oct 28, 2011 11:45 AM
This particular Nanny State Campaign contextualises all drinking as bad and recreational - which doesn't foster any responsibility at all.

There's nothing wrong with learning early that drink isn't just about getting pissed. I (and my children) had a glass of watered down wine with meals from the age of about 12. It puts drink in its rightful place, nurtures enjoyment of food eaten slowly and sociably (which in turn might go someway to encouraging healthier diets).

We shouldn't demonise all alcohol for the sake of preaching politicians interested more in their profile than the people.

Put it this way, most of them will have got hopelessly pissed as teenagers and in their early twenties - its a rite of passage. But I bet they subsequently learned to know their Chablis from their Champagne and their Graves from their Grand Cru. Most of them aren't exactly famed for holding back anyway.
trevorjenkins says:
Oct 28, 2011 01:01 PM
I like a beer or a glass of wine occasionally, mostly at home cos it's cheaper. Make it more expensive and get tough on my behaviour please and I will change!

Since when did shock tactics work? Not for ciggies!

The Minister for Justice should ban drivers with alcohol above the limit, jail drunks proper for killing and injurring with cars and impose community service sentences on people who offend while drunk. They could clear up sick and detritus off pavements outside city and town pubs? Get pissed, get offensive - get nailed. yes I mean punishment for offending!

It's not the message or the messenger it's the (no fear/no brains/no control)oiks that do wot they wana do and disregard at both.

I am sure the drinks industry will help and support.

Or perhaps legalise cannabis - far less dangerous in numbers terms and we can still be intoxicated about British social habits man?

Loved the BBC interview at the Conservative party Conference?
twray says:
Oct 29, 2011 04:02 PM
Try telling my two children with foetal alcohol Spectrum disorder
it was safe for mummy too drink in pregnancy.
These are the real casualty's born with a liftime disabilty
8000 UK children Born each year with FASD . BMA Report 2007