Helen Martin: Campaign against alcohol is alarming

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PARTIAL though I am to a noggin or two, even I would not recommend drinking lots of alcohol as a means of achieving a healthy lifestyle.

But the naivety of those who campaign against alcohol is quite terrifying. Alerted to the rise of sales of alcohol in supermarkets and off licences, they seize on “evidence” Scots are guzzling their way to intoxication and living up to the bladdered national stereotype. The only solution, they say, is to raise the price of booze so it becomes inaccessible to many.

It was reduction of the drink-driving limit, the ban on smoking in pubs including harmless vapourisers and e-cigs, and ensuing pub closures that drove people to drink at home in the first place. Of course supermarket and off-sales figures were going to rise, especially with the discovery you can buy twice as much at half the price of pub tariffs – and you don’t have to take your turn buying a round. That’s the cause of rising consumption. I presume they have thought through the real perils of higher priced alcohol... making it a more valuable commodity to steal, the Celtic history of shebeens and stills, and the unintentional “boost” to toxic fake spirits... but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Healthy living is no guarantee of longevity

WHENEVER Scotland’s health is in question (which is most of the time), the public health default position is always to blame the individual for an “unhealthy” lifestyle.

Even dementia has being linked to unhealthy living, with the advice that not drinking, smoking or eating the wrong things combined with exercise and activity could hold it at bay or avoid it. They’re making it up.

In my mum’s nursing home, the clean-living, well-nourished, medically-trained, hobby athlete at 80-something is just as demented as the hard-drinking, smoking, pie-and-chips, 80-something workie in the next chair. People from all backgrounds, diets and lifestyles share the same, tragic condition.

Obviously, extreme bad habits do contribute to poor health and early death. But it is quite wrong to sell the majority of people the idea that keeping fit, eating little and well and eschewing fags and bevvy offers genuine protection. It’s just one part of a vast complexity of factors, genetics, plus the fickle finger of Fate. We all know clean livers who have suddenly dropped dead at 50, and 40-a-day puffers who are still puffing at 90.

Two colleagues of mine had heart attacks within a week of each other. Neither drinks or smokes, both walk a lot, one is partial to a SPAM fritter but the other always has fruit on his desk and is built like a whippet.

There are some people, probably including those attracted to health advisory careers, who would love to live in a world where no-one drank, smoked or ate cream-cakes and everyone spent three hours a day at the gym instead of channel surfing on the couch.

But now all the “good” advice is in doubt. Fat used to be the root of all evil, now we are advised to see it as a “friend”. Sugar, starch and too many carbs are bad. Too much fruit juice is bad. Counting calories is destructive, what matters is the quality of the nutrients. What’s regarded as an essential diet for weight loss might contribute to heart disease.

Too much exercise can be addictive and cause long-term skeletal damage. But what’s “too much”? And what of elite, inspiring athletes who regularly took dangerous drugs?

In the face of all this

misinformation over decades, it seems grossly inhumane to blame someone who is seriously ill or dying for bringing it on themselves by making the wrong lifestyle choices.

A lung cancer patient who has never smoked will be seen as a saintly victim while another who did will be seen as culpable. The latest to be judged are those with type 2 diabetes who are overweight, until you realise that one in five who have the disease are thin and athletic.

Statistically, certain lifestyles may be more dangerous than others but there is no medical pathway to eternal life or any guarantee that a fit freak won’t get hit by a bus while out jogging.

Perfect, identical lifestyles only exist in make-believe worlds, nightmares or communist regimes – and in the minds of public health departments and lobbyists who feel it is their duty to protect NHS budgets from anyone inconsiderate enough to have brought an expensive disease upon


The worst sickness of our modern society is lifestyle snobbery that leads a cycling, jogging vegetarian to think they are somehow worth more treatment than the guy who buys a kebab on his way home from the pub.

Better off in prison

NO matter what happens as a result of the Crown protecting Glasgow bin lorry driver Harry Clarke from any risk of prosecution, he will be publicly reviled, never regain his licence or be trusted again. His life would probably be easier in jail than out of it.

More staff is the answer

ODD that it was Jeremy Corbyn – and not a Tory – who proposed women-only train carriages at night to reduce sex attacks.

The best response came from Unison’s Dave Prentis, pictured, who suggested more staffing instead. Back to the future . . . we used to call them conductors and guards.