Alcohol and health
A sober brawl
Alcohol firms promote moderate drinking, but it would ruin them
OF ALL THE substances people intoxicate themselves with, alcohol is the least restricted and causes the most harm. Many illegal drugs are more dangerous to those who use them, but are relatively hard to obtain, which limits their impact. In contrast, alcohol is omnipresent, so far more people suffer from its adverse effects. In 2010 a group of drug experts scored the total harm in Britain caused by 20 common intoxicants and concluded that alcohol inflicted the greatest cost, mostly because of the damage it does to non-consumers such as the victims of drunk drivers.
No Western country has banned alcohol since America repealed Prohibition in 1933. It is popular and easy to produce. Making it illegal enriches criminals and starts turf wars. In recent years governments have begun legalising other drugs. Instead, to limit the harm caused by alcohol, states have tried to dissuade people from drinking, using taxes, awareness campaigns and limits on where, when and to whom booze is sold.
The alcohol industry has pitched itself as part of the solution. In Britain more than 100 producers and retailers have signed a “responsibility deal” and promised to “help people to drink within guidelines”, mostly by buying ads promoting moderation. However, if these campaigns were effective, they would ruin their sponsors’ finances. According to researchers from the Institute of Alcohol Studies, a think-tank, and the University of Sheffield, some two-fifths of alcohol consumed in Britain is in excess of the recommended weekly maximum of 14 units (about one glass of wine per day). Industry executives say they want the public to “drink less, but drink better”, meaning fewer, fancier tipples. But people would need to pay 22-98% more per drink to make up for the revenue loss that such a steep drop in consumption would cause.
酒类行业将自己塑造成解决方案的一部分。在英国，一百多家生产商和零售商签署了一项“责任书”，承诺“帮助人们按指导方针饮酒”，主要是通过发布宣传适度饮酒的广告。但是，如果这些活动真的奏效，它们会损害赞助商的收入。据智库酒精研究所（Institute of Alcohol Studies）和谢菲尔德大学的研究人员所述，英国人喝掉的酒有约五分之二属于超出推荐饮酒量的部分——推荐饮酒量为每周不超过14个单位（大约相当于每天一杯葡萄酒）。酒业高管说，他们希望公众“少喝酒，喝好酒“，也就是说喝少点、喝贵点。但是，若要弥补消费如此急剧下降而损失的收入，需要人们为每一杯酒多花22%到98%的钱。
Health officials have taken note of such arithmetic. Some now wonder if Big Booze is sincere in its efforts to discourage boozing. In 2018 America’s National Institutes of Health stopped a $100m study of moderate drinking, which was partly funded by alcohol firms, because its design was biased in their products’ favour. And this year the World Health Organisation and England’s public-health authority banned their staff from working with the industry.
卫生部门的官员已经觉察到了这笔帐。有些人现在怀疑酒业巨头是否真的在努力阻止人们酗酒。2018年美国国立卫生研究院（National Institutes of Health）停止了一项耗资1亿美元、由酒类公司提供部分资金的适度饮酒研究，因为研究的设计偏袒这些公司的产品。今年世界卫生组织和英格兰的公共卫生部门已禁止雇员与酒业合作。
Producers are ready to fend off regulators. In 1999 alcohol firms invested half as much on lobbying in America as tobacco firms did. Today they spend 31% more.