For many, a drink be­fore din­ner, one with din­ner, one after din­ner is an en­joy­able and mod­er­ate way to end the day – Caleb Bond

The Advertiser - - OPINION -

STOP right there – don’t let that glass of wine pass your lips. The food and drink po­lice are here to save you from your­self. Just one drink does you dam­age.

First, they came for the smokes – which have been, for the most part, ex­punged. Smok­ers are now lep­ers and they need to take out a sec­ond mort­gage to in­dulge their vice.

Next, they’re com­ing for the al­co­hol. If the pub­lic health lobby can find a way to make you pay more for it, they will. If they can find a way to in­sti­tute some kind of na­tional re­stric­tion on how many stan­dard drinks you can im­bibe a day, they will. It may well end in you hav­ing to re­treat from the din­ner ta­ble to a cold, win­dow­less room to en­joy your glass of wine.

Peo­ple will give you filthy looks as they pass you in the street, sip­ping a glass of red at an al­fresco ta­ble. They’ll come up and ut­ter such asi­nine phrases as, “That’s bad for you, you know?”

It might sound ridicu­lous, but so it did of smok­ing 30 years ago. And all signs point to al­co­hol be­ing the next tar­get. While the pub­lic health lobby bangs on about how we need pill test­ing so young peo­ple can “safely” take il­licit drugs at mu­sic fes­ti­vals, they also seek to de­monise one of our only le­gal and eas­ily con­trol­lable sub­stances.

Ten years ago, the carry on was about young peo­ple binge drink­ing – or, more sin­is­terly, al­co­hol in­tox­i­ca­tion dis­or­der. Now it’s older peo­ple binge drink­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to new re­search from the Med­i­cal Jour­nal of Aus­tralia, Baby Boomers are in­creas­ingly drink­ing at “dan­ger­ous lev­els”. The pro­por­tion of “high risk” 50 and over drinkers is on the rise.

Those “high risk” oldies are clas­si­fied as such be­cause they have 11 or more stan­dard drinks on one oc­ca­sion once a month. So 12 out of 365 days in the year they get to­gether with their friends for a long lunch and they are now con­demned as ir­re­triev­able drunk­ards. Really?

But the study also found those deemed “risky” drinkers – who tend to drink five to 10 drinks in a ses­sion – has in­creased from 13.4 per cent to 13.5 per cent in 12 years. It’s hardly cause for alarm.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment guide­lines, though, binge drink­ing is deemed to be four or more stan­dard drinks in one ses­sion. That’s about three stub­bies of beer or glasses of wine.

One be­fore din­ner, one with din­ner, one after din­ner. That, for many peo­ple, would be a stan­dard night. They don’t go to bed sloshed. They don’t feel the need to brawl in the street. It’s just an en­joy­able and mod­er­ate way to end the day.

Gov­ern­ment web­site healthdi­rect.gov.au help­fully in­forms us that some peo­ple might par­take in this sort of “binge drink­ing” be­cause they “might feel peer pres­sure to get mag­goted”.

Hon­estly – when was the last time you heard some­one use the term mag­goted?

Do-good­ers, nanny-statists and pub­lic health nuts may be­moan that al­co­hol is part of the Aus­tralian cul­ture. But it’s part of nearly ev­ery cul­ture. Europe, for in­stance, has a very strong drink­ing cul­ture. But in­stead of try­ing to paint them­selves as bunch of hope­less soaks, they em­brace it. It’s part of their lives – and it en­hances their lives. Al­co­hol is there to en­joy and that is ex­actly how we should look at it, too.

Our great state of South Aus­tralia has a very proud record when it comes to al­co­hol. We pro­duce some of the best wines in the world in our many renowned wine re­gions. They fuel the econ­omy, at­tract tourists and pro­vide a great deal of plea­sure.

Teenage drink­ing and drug­tak­ing rates have been on the de­crease for some time – I would ar­gue be­cause it’s be­come al­most blase, as op­posed to taboo.

A Can­cer Coun­cil of Vic­to­ria study has claimed a de­crease in TV al­co­hol ad­ver­tis­ing is linked to the lower drink­ing rates. But it also con­cedes that it has co­in­cided with an in­crease in on­line ad­ver­tis­ing. Their ex­po­sure is likely no more or less.

If we turn al­co­hol into the next pariah, it may well have the op­po­site ef­fect of mak­ing it cool again. Young peo­ple will re­sume drink­ing it be­cause they’re be­ing told not to.

RISKY?: A new study says ‘risky’ drinkers tend to drink five to 10 drinks in one ses­sion.

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