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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton  


         The politics of drinking
February 8, 2010



Fear and loafing can ruin your health

Great, super, wicked, top hole, straight out of the fridge. I want to make it unequivocally clear that I support the quest for safer glassware. Love it, over the moon, bostiní. Itís exactly the kind of thing we should be doing Ė making the world safe for drinking. Iím delighted, creaming my jeans, made up.

With just one eensy qualification - that the new glasses unveiled by Home Office boffins the other day maintain the quality of the drinking-from-glass experience, as previously mentioned.

That given, the news is uplifting, positive, dreamy. In short, Iíll drink to that. Itís the way the announcement has been framed thatís got me hopping mad, tearing my hair out, kicking the cat up the arse.

(No, youíre right Iíll stop the synonyming now. All done without the aid of a Thesaurus, mindÖ)

Pete Brown has painstakingly pulled apart the spurious statistics used to justify safer glassware, reducing 87,000 glassing incidents to 5,000. Heís a one man crime-fighting machine is Pete.

What I donít get is if these new glasses are so good, why are they trying to scare us into accepting them? Have a look at the introductory scenes to the launch video. They quickly flick, in an almost subliminal manner, from glassings, to alcohol-related violence, to the cost to the NHS - £2.7bn. Thatís a big number. Itís also a wrong number. Thatís the estimated cost of total alcohol problems, including alcohol-related disease, to the health service, not even the cost of alcohol-related violence, let alone glassings, which as Pete shows are relatively rare.

Itís like theyíve reached for the nearest available statistic and smashed us in the face with it.

Unbreakable glassware might well be a boon to the pub trade, but selling it in like this constitutes yet another attack on pubs by scaring people away from them.

Living in fear is not good for you. A quick search on Google (which is what passes for investigative journalism these days) came up with this. Fear stops you going out, prevents you socialising normally and causes depression. Which, of course, is a big cause of problem drinking.

Even then you wonít have escaped the fear. I was settling down to watch A Prophet at the pictures last week when one of the new NHS alcohol education ads came on. More scare tactics, though wasted on this audience seeing as how life in a French prison, as depicted in A Prophet, makes liver cirrhosis look like a picnic.

Worse, these ads seem to link hazardous drinking with the insidious effects of being with your mates.

Has anyone bothered to weigh the potential diseases and dangers that might come from drinking alcohol against the positive impact of going out, socialising, relaxing and having a laugh over a pint or Ė dare I say it Ė three?

But that doesnít mean Iím against safer glassware. Did you get that?

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