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It's all death and taxes

Published:  18 January, 2007

If you think that it is the job of trade bodies alone to fight the anti-alcohol lobby then you are brain-dead with ghastliness.

As it happens, the second is not the lesser option. The anti-alcohol lobby is not some hulking Goliath, which can be easily felled with a single responsible-drinking campaign to the temple. It attacks like an army of dwarves. Each misrepresented statistic or biased interpretation may seem like an irritating kick to the shins. But enough of them could bring us to our knees. And you know where they'll start kicking then.

Claims that "booze Britain" lives under a growing menace of cheap drink go unchallenged. It should embarrass us that we have let this view gain currency in a country with some of the most expensive alcohol in Europe and at a time of falling consumption. We are also told that taxation is "self-evidently" the best way to tackle the problems of alcohol. Given that expert opinion from Oxford economists to HM Treasury agrees that it isn't, it seems we're not pointing out the evidence in our favour.

As it happens, we have much of which to be proud. Alcohol misuse is a complex problem, but the evidence shows that our industry tackles the problem very successfully. We should explain that to people. Because, of course, it could be worse. Estimates suggest in the UK the number of alcohol-related deaths is only one quarter that of deaths caused by medical errors. Imagine trying to argue your case as a doctor.

Joe Fattorini is a journalist and wine writer for, among others, The Herald in Scotland