Another month, another story about Britain's alcohol "problem".
This time it's the news that a change in the way units are measured means that record numbers of us are drinking more than the (revised) safe limits. As the Telegraph reports:
The figures show 31 per cent of men - 7.1 million - are drinking at hazardous levels ... Twenty per cent of women, or 4.9 million, are classed as hazardous drinkers ...As the report doesn't point out, the logic here is absurd. If I decide to increase the length of an inch by 20%, it doesn't make me thinner.
Funnily enough, exactly this point is made by the good old Office of National Statistics in the press summary of its latest household survey (where the figures ultimately come from):
It should be noted, however, that changing the way in which alcohol consumption estimates are derived does not in itself reflect a real change in drinking among the adult population.Indeed. Furthermore, on the basis of figures compiled using old unit values which can thus be compared to previous years:
The proportion of men drinking more than 21 units a week on average fell from 29 per cent in 2000 to 23 per cent in 2006. There was also a fall in the proportion of women drinking more than 14 units a week (from 17 per cent in 2000 to 12 per cent in 2006).The fact is, then, that alcohol consumption is falling in Britain among men and women and has been doing for some time.
This might in part be because British guidelines on safe levels of consumption have been revised down over the last 30 years to become some of the most restrictive in the world.
Far from being a drinker's paradise in which alcohol abuse is spiralling out of control, we are a relatively sober nation - and getting drier all the time.
Sadly, this is not the message you will be hearing from our sensationalist media. Witness last summer's hysteria over binge drinking amongst young people: complete rubbish, as this week's ONS data shows that alcohol consumption has been falling steadily among 16-24 year olds too.
The government already intends to stigmatise drinking. They are being lobbied to do so by a powerful new consortium of health fascists. The media should be reporting the facts - attacking and not helping this unholy alliance impose itself upon us in the name of a problem which is entirely fictional.
It's enough to make you turn to drink.