Not satisfied with hounding smokers and purveyors of Big Gulp sodas – or even gun manufacturers – nanny-staters have reached way back into their historical toolkits to go after alcohol. That’s right, in this the 80th year since the repeal of Prohibition, a new coalition has arisen to take on the scourge of demon rum.
But these aren’t your great-granddaddy’s Baptists and bootleggers; instead we have a transnational alliance of “public health professionals” out to make the world a more sober place. Not satisfied with the persuasiveness of their entreaties, however, they further want to muzzle alcohol producers and anyone else with a “stake” in the debate. (Apparently limiting the freedom to drink isn’t enough for these people; the freedom of speech and to petition the government for redress of grievances are also suspect.)
Here’s Exhibit A, a “statement of concern” put out in February by a group of public health advocates calling themselves the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance. In a nutshell, GAPA doesn’t like the fact that the beverage alcohol industry is involved in the debate on how to reduce alcohol abuse, not even the commitments that 13 of the largest alcohol producers made in support of the World Health Organization’s “Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol. The most revealing “reservation” the GAPA-niks have is item 3 on page 3:
Prior initiatives advanced by the alcohol industry as contributions to the WHO Global Strategy have major limitations from a public health perspective …
That sounds rather innocuous – an academic disagreement about alcohol policy – but let me put this in context. The public health community consistently advocates “population-based” controls that simply seek to reduce total alcohol consumption, regardless of whether alcohol abuse declines. There could be cirrhotic ne’er-do-wells dying in the streets, but as long as yuppies buy less Jack Daniel’s, all is fine. The alcohol industry, or anyone that cares about actually fixing social problems rather than taking steps that at best just make politicians feel good – call it the inverse Baptists/bootleggers – prefers a targeted approach: keep booze away from kids, get alcoholics treatment, don’t drink bad moonshine that’ll make you go blind, etc.