Average amount drunk in UK is 16th highest worldwide
Yet again, this once great country fails to make the top 10. We're getting beaten by South Korea now, for goodness sake. The Czechs are making us look positively light-weight. I'm not looking at you, ladies. You've been pulling your weight. But men, especially those aged 16-24, what's happened? Where's your sense of pride? I'm not asking you to keep up with the Irish or the Russians. Let's be realistic. But at least keep pace with the Portuguese and the Slovenians.
This comes from The Telegraph's article about the latest piece of temperance advocacy from the World Health Organisation, which is inviting governments around the world to keep on taxing drinkers:
“One of the most effective is raising alcohol prices by raising taxes."
By how much? Is there no limit? Apparently not, as there is no suggestion in the report that taxes could ever be too high. Alcohol taxes are not immune to the laffer curve and there is a ton of evidence, gathered over centuries, that excessive alcohol taxes result in more dangerous drinking habits and home distilling of strong, unregulated booze. You only have to look at the figures in this very report to the difference between high and moderate tax countries:
Per capita consumption of pure alcohol (litres)
Recorded consumption: 6.70
Unrecorded consumption: 3.60
Recorded consumption: 8.44
Unrecorded consumption: 1.00
I use the USA as a comparison because it's not as if they don't have a history of making moonshine when they need to.
"This has the added benefit of generating increased revenues."
If it was truly effective it would result in less consumption, not increased revenue. Touting alcohol taxes as a way of raising revenue rather gives the game away, does it not?
And, dear oh dear, the anti-obesity and anti-smoking factions aren't going to like this...
"Alcohol consumption is the world’s third largest risk factor for disease and disability; in middle-income countries, it is the greatest risk."
That rather depends on what you're measuring. The demon drink came rather lower down the list in a previous WHO report, which showed the number of deaths attributable to various risk factors.
This wasn't sufficiently newsworthy for the new report on alcohol, and since the WHO now seems to be a glorified pressure group, they did what campaigners do and picked the data that best suited their PR people.
This is the chart, showing the number of Disability-adjusted Life Years. Sure enough alcohol now beats both smoking and obesity, and comes top for middle-income countries (or, more precisely I think, middle income people).
The difference comes down to alcohol tending to kill people at a younger age (that's 'kill' in the broadest sense—over 40% of the claimed death toll is due to intentional and unintentional injuries, which can only be partially attributed to alcohol.)
There's nothing wrong with using 'years lost' rather than 'lives lost' to measure the impact of risk factors. In fact, I think it's a better measure, as children dying of starvation and AIDS is clearly a more important preventable death than a 90-year old dying of hypertension.
It does, however, demonstrate how statistics can be mined to suit the cause. It is now a three-way battle between the temperance lobby, the fat-fighters and the anti-smokers to keep their pet project in the public eye. This involves vying for position both with the claimed death toll and with the ever spiralling 'cost to society'. Tobacco has traditionally been the undisputed champion in this field. For instance:
Smoking Now Leading Cause of Death Worldwide
The use of tobacco is now the primary cause of death around the world. And the Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says not enough countries are taking adequate steps to discourage it.
The World Health Organisation implies the same thing, but note the careful wording:
Tobacco use kills more than 5 million people per year. It is responsible for 1 in 10 adult deaths. Among the five greatest risk factors for mortality, it is the single most preventable cause of death.
You may also have read that obesity is the leading preventable cause of death, at least in America. (Less reliable sources may have even told you that obesity is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide.)
Research confirms obesity is now leading cause of preventable death in U.S.
America's persistent weight problem is now the country's leading cause of preventable death.
For years scientists and health care professionals have warned of the dangers of smoking, and tobacco use is still a major contributor to early mortality. But new research shows that it is is obesity that now causes even more fatal disease.
And now alcohol is well and truly in the race. But, as a point of fact, none of them are the world's leading cause of preventable death. As the data show, the leading cause of lives lost is high blood pressure and the leading cause of years lost is childhood malnutrition. We don't hear so much about these, but then they're not taxable, are they?