Are we right to demonise drink?
I often have this fantasy that I enter a supermarket where the only products available for purchase are those that are good for us. Imagine the gaps – no cakes, no crisps, no sweets, no processed food full of additives and E numbers, no fizzy drinks full of sugar or dangerous additives (Health Canada recommends limiting alcohol to just 2 drinks per week, 18 January).
I enjoy alcohol, though I’m currently also enjoying dry January. I can’t remember the last time a doctor or a dental survey asked me how many units of burgers, crisps or cakes I normally consume in a week.
I exercise regularly, and normally drink sensibly, with several non-drink days a week. I am a fairly strong and fit 72-year-old who, up to now, has not bothered our beleaguered NHS much. I resent being given warnings about how much to drink while feeling that too little notice is given to obesity and poor diet in our society. Have we really got this one right?
• Alcohol is responsible for at least 1,000 cancer cases every year in Ireland, with one in eight breast cancer cases arising from alcohol use. Even one to two drinks per day increases the risk of developing cancer, and that risk is the same whether those drinks are wine, spirits or beer. Unfortunately, there is a very low level of public awareness that alcohol has been classed as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning it is carcinogenic to humans. That is why Ireland has passed legislation that provides for health information labels on alcohol products, including warnings about cancer, liver disease and the danger of drinking in pregnancy. It is unsurprising that the alcohol industry, which promotes its products with carefully crafted myths of good times for all, is objecting to the mandatory provision of facts (Anger brews in Italy over Ireland’s plans for alcohol health warnings, 12 January).
Dr Sheila Gilheany
CEO, Alcohol Action Ireland