It is nice to hear that the British Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee today recommended that Brits lay off the drink twice a week, even if that solution might seem a little like trying to bail out a brewery with a thimble.
A number of establishments in Britain, no doubt, will respond to the report with hearty agreement followed by toasts all around.
But the prevalence of a drinking problem in what the report calls “booze Britain” is so manifest that the members of Parliament felt it incumbent to take an official look at what “sensible drinking" might mean.
British media have howled about the negative effects of destructive binge drinking among youth for years, without much result. Brits are notorious in Europe for taking cheap flights en masse to Krakow or the Spanish shore or the Canary Islands – to spend 48 hours getting smashed and irritating the locals. And that is just the beginning on the long list of heavy drinking excesses.
The report was issued the same day as a Daily Mail report that binges and weekend blowouts are now so acceptable and regularized in Britain that, “Two-day hangovers have become the norm for office workers as staff relieve stress … with marathon alcohol binges, which start on Thursday night and continue until Sunday evening.” The new normal for a hangover is one that doesn’t dissipate until Tuesday afternoon, the piece continues.
So it is not surprising to find a government body arguing for moderation, which is certainly a better concept of “sensible.” The findings of the study urge men and women to cut back from previous recommended “maximum drinking” levels, and the report recommends that women in particular reduce their totals, and that pregnant women abstain.
But some alcohol and drinking support groups, and even the report itself, questions whether the idea that one should cut drinking two days a week and adhere to daily totals actually promotes the idea of regular drinking, and is confusing.
A public health professor, Alan Maryon-Davis, told the BBC that "Broadly speaking [alcohol guidelines] are fit for purpose, but they need a bit of clarification. The word 'daily' I would object to. It gives the impression that it is a good idea to drink every day, which clearly it isn't."
The members of the parliamentary committee argue at the outset of the guidelines that, “There is a lack of consensus amongst experts over the health benefits of alcohol, but it is not clear from the current evidence base how the benefits of drinking alcohol at low quantities compare to those of lifelong abstention.”
It might be interesting to one day clarify that question. But as pastors, doctors, Alcoholics Anonymous, and many others who have seen the negative effects of drinking and other drugs have argued for many years (and often without being sanctimonious), addressing the causes of use or abuse are the most salutary measures.