Diageo and alcohol-awareness campaigns

 

Sir, – The ratcheting-up of anti-alcohol rhetoric (February 25th) will alarm those of your readers who know themselves to be responsible social drinkers and have no desire to pay extra for their weekend bottle of wine because others are incapable of drinking responsibly.

That a reader labels our native drinks industry “Big Alcohol”, so it can sit with Big Tobacco on the corporate naughty step, should concern the many thousands of farmers, small businesses and service suppliers who depend for their livelihoods on a sector that directly employs some 60,000 people and makes millions of euro for the exchequer annually.

It seems to this observer that a concerted effort is now under way – through newspaper opinion pages, talk radio stations and social media – to advance a neo-prohibitionist agenda that seeks to denormalise drinking, shame the manufacturers and extend a web of restrictions around the sale, advertising and possession of alcohol.

Diageo is a legitimate corporation, selling a lawful product that is already heavily regulated and subject to the second-highest taxes across the 28 member countries of the EU. Let’s not forget either the enormous philanthropic contribution made to the people of Dublin by the Guinness family over decades. Irish whiskey is one of our biggest export-lead success stories in difficult economic times – surely we should be proud of that?

By using the World Health Organisation’s lowball definition of binge-drinking – three to four pints in one sitting – we are warned by the neo-prohibitionists that 1.35 million Irish people are “drinking harmfully”, a figure which simply does not accord with day-to-day reality. Only this week we learned from the ESRI that life expectancy in Ireland, at 81, has never been higher.

This suggests that we are far from the national public health crisis the doomsayers insist on and we should be intensifying our efforts to help those struggling with genuine alcohol addiction, instead of quibbling over who is funding awareness campaigns. – Yours, etc,

PHILIP DONNELLY,

Clane,

Co Kildare.