back to article 'No safe level' booze guidelines? Nonsense, thunder stats profs

The heads of Britain’s statistics society have written to the Health Secretary to point out that the government’s alcohol guidelines don’t accurately reflect the numbers. Two weeks ago the British civil servant at the Department of Health responsible for issuing medical advice (who rejoices in the corporate-inspired title of “ …

  1. Avatar of They Silver badge
    Pint

    Needs to be said.

    I will go with an academic over a politician any day of the week.

    1. g e

      Re: Needs to be said.

      EVERY day of the week!

      FTFY :o)

      1. HildyJ
        Pint

        Re: Needs to be said.

        Is it just me or do far to many politicians' statements sound like they were drunk when they wrote their speech? I go with academics because academia trains you to properly handle your alcohol.

  2. Richard Wharram

    University of Sheffield

    Unfortunately my old Uni always seems to be behind these temperance campaigns such as this and minimum alcohol pricing.

    I am sorry :(

    1. Richard 81

      Re: University of Sheffield

      And yet Sheffield has so many nice pubs.

      1. Richard Wharram

        Re: University of Sheffield

        Frog and Parrot was it? Used to serve Roger and Out. Strongest beer in the world at the time ('92-ish.)

      2. Boothy

        Re: University of Sheffield

        Quote: "And yet Sheffield has so many nice pubs".

        Especially round the Kelham island area. Fat Cat, Riverside, the Kelham Island Tavern itself etc etc.

        I've spent quite a few pleasant Friday afternoons with friends wandering from pub to pub, usually talking absolute bollocks, as you do.

  3. Graham Cunningham

    "No safe level...."

    "... of government guidelines."

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Government Vs Truth

    The government have never cared what is true or right. Just look at what happened to David Nutt.

  5. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
    Pint

    You know what you must do.

    Sorry, I have no idea whatsoever. Going to check fridge for clues...

    1. Richard 81

      Re: You know what you must do.

      Eat a bacon sandwich?

      1. g e

        Re: You know what you must do.

        With brandy-infused brown sauce, natch :oP

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: You know what you must do.

      Ah.. a nice reminder.. beer and bacon sarnie time. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

  6. Paul Shirley

    what they hoped no one noticed

    I particularly enjoyed the meta-study they loudly claimed shows no statistically significant benefit to moderate drinking. The way they hoped no one would notice it also shows no statistically significant harm from moderate drinking!

    They also hoped we wouldn't notice they say nothing about life expectancy, only cause of death. Long life gives cancer more chance to kill you, seems drinkers live long enough for that to replace some heart and stroke deaths.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: what they hoped no one noticed

      Somewhere is the 'sweet spot'. Basically, when you've figured out the minimum you need to consume to live longer than someone who drinks less, you drink that much, then continue until you live forever! Or die trying.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    largely academic arguments?

    Firstly, despite efforts of the good professor, the general public don't understand risk.

    Secondly, any sort of guidelines are unlikely to moderate the levels of drinking seen o a Saturday night in the town centres of this green and pleasant land.

  8. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

    No Safe Level

    I've heard that 'no safe level' before, but I can't think what it was. Anybody else?

    It may have been as sensible as 'no safe level' of polonium-210 in your tea, or it may have been something as stupid as 'no safe level' of booze.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: No Safe Level

      To pick a recent example, lead (see Flint, Michigan).

    2. Loud Speaker

      Re: No Safe Level

      I think you will find it was "No safe level of politically motivated statements"

  9. scrubber

    What's the point of living?

    Can't smoke.

    Can't drink.

    Can't have sugar.

    Can't have fat.

    Bacon causes cancer.

    Caffeine is 'seriously addictive'.

    Red meat causes cancer.

    What next, running in the corridor is dangerous?

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: What's the point of living?

      @Scrubber

      Also:

      Driving your own car is dangerous

      Being driven by Google is dangerous

    2. The Axe

      Re: What's the point of living?

      "What next, running in the corridor is dangerous?"

      It is if you are carrying scissors.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: What's the point of living?

        It is if you are carrying scissors.

        Didn't Clippy say that?

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: What's the point of living?

          Living in a terraced house causes terrorism ... in kids.

          1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: What's the point of living?

            Living in a terraced house causes terrorism ... in kids.

            Well this does need to be corrected. Of course while the Beeb and the Guadian reported it as such, I think the Police and Social Services were rather worried about the same kid writing that stated he 'hated it when his uncle hit him'.

            But when the lie has gone half way round the world before any 'journalist' has checked some fact, why bother. The BBC and the Guardian have both apologised/withdrawn reports (not that you could find them on their web sites without a lot of work - https://www.theguardian.com/info/2016/jan/21/removed-article) - but the damage has been done.

            1. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

              Re: What's the point of living?

              that totally explains why the cops spent 45 mins poking about on a computer they found (did they have a search warrant? I doubt it) and then started whining about reports bringing the prevent program into disrepute. not heard the uncle hitting him thing before and wonder where it came from. suspect it was on the cops list of talking points.

          2. william flipflops

            Re: What's the point of living?

            I think you missed the real story that the little terrorist was being beaten black and blue by his lovely uncle (or cousin or brother or stepson, same thing sometimes )

    3. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: What's the point of living?

      What next, running in the corridor is dangerous?

      Don't get them started on the hazards of simultaneous scissor-bearing...

      Edit: Sorry, *snap*

      1. Stuart 22
        Pint

        Re: What's the point of living?

        I'm looking for our glorious government to rule on the 'safe level of VW diesels' on Britain's roads. I won't hold my breath. On the other hand not breathing may be a help. Or not. Its very confusing. Time for a beer.

        1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

          Re: What's the point of living?

          @Stuart 22

          I've just marathoned the last season of Peep Show so in my head it was Jeremy's voice saying - fits perfectly so have an upvote

    4. scrubber

      Re: What's the point of living?

      A couple more, just for fun:

      Porn causes rape.

      Violent video games causes violence.

      Piracy causes terrorism

      Encryption causes terrorism.

      Not allowing the government to look at your internet history causes terrorism.

      Not allowing the government to record your calls and email and IM and texts and in-game communications causes terrorism.

      Telling the people what the government is doing causes terrorism.

      And, drawing Mohammed is now terrorism because it invites terrorism.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's the point of living?

        > And, drawing Mohammed is now terrorism because it invites terrorism.

        Even worse, and a more credible excuse to the idiotic and credulous: "drawing Mohammed is terrorism because it knowingly 'incites' violence".

        I kid you not.

      2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Re: What's the point of living?

        Not thinking of the children causes children to be harmed... By those thinking of the children......

      3. Pseu Donyme

        Re: What's the point of living?

        >Piracy causes terrorism.

        Good to know: until now I was under the impression that it merely caused Communism.

    5. Pollik

      Re: What's the point of living?

      Next? Breathing in London

    6. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: What's the point of living?

      @scrubber -

      Living is a hazard to your health.

      Your chances of dying from some cause - 100%

      The real problem is there is no activity, food, etc. that is 100% safe. Everything one does has some risk of injury and death. The risks may be very small but they exist.

      Also, the ferals over here regularly spew dietary nonsense which they are consistently retracting 5 to 10 years later. For food, the best rule I have heard, eat everything in moderation and eat some of all foods. But the ferals have politicized food and it sounds like Blighty is having the same problem.

    7. Dr Scrum Master

      Re: What's the point of living?

      What next, running in the corridor is dangerous?

      That must be why the girls in my daughter's school do cartwheels in the corridors.

  10. Graham Marsden
    Facepalm

    "guidelines don’t accurately reflect the numbers"

    Well *there's* a surprise, boys and girls!

    Don't forget, this is the government which has just passed a monumentally stupid and represesive law to ban legal highs (excluding, of course, alcohol, caffeine and tobacco) despite the fact that two of those three have been responsible for more deaths and suffering and long-term illnesses than everything else put together.

    1. Richard 81

      Re: "guidelines don’t accurately reflect the numbers"

      I'm not sure what annoys me more: the fact that they've banned those compounds, or the oxymoron of having banned legal highs.

    2. nisakiman

      Re: "guidelines don’t accurately reflect the numbers"

      Apparently an MP has been pleading for 'poppers' (amyl nitrate) to be exempted, because 'they are popular with the gay community'. Needless to say, the MP in question is gay himself. So he's happy to deny everyone else of their legal high of choice, but wants his own choice to remain legal.

      And they wonder why we hold them in contempt...

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: "guidelines don’t accurately reflect the numbers"

        At least he's had the honesty to stand up for his own. Would that all those who engage in a bit of kinky sex had stood up and been counted, or those who smoke a bit of dope, or those who value freedom of speech and the right to protest.

        Or even those who won't even stand up for their constituents for fear of losing their nice government job.

        He's stood up for something he believes in and that's a quality sadly lacking in modern politicians.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. TheDillinquent

          Re: "guidelines don’t accurately reflect the numbers"

          Nitrate was the original poppers & fuel additive but was banned in the '70s or 80's. Until this current silly legislation nitrite was still legal.

          Nitrous oxide (AKA Laughing gas, hippy crack etc.) is also used as used to enhance ICE performance and is another victim of this braindead banhammer.

      3. Adrian Smart

        Re: "guidelines don’t accurately reflect the numbers"

        Amyl NitrIte, please

    3. Paul Shirley

      Re: "guidelines don’t accurately reflect the numbers"

      "two of those three have been responsible for more deaths and suffering"

      Drinking beer instead of unsterilised water has saved countless lives for at least 7000 years so far.

  11. phil dude
    Pint

    don't worry...

    If governments are willing to ignore immutable things like mathematics, I am fairly sure they will apply this competence free "dogma-over-evidence" to any part of life.

    Enjoy to excess in moderation , See Icon ->

    P.

  12. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Governemt "expert committees"

    An expert committee is any group of people appointed by the government who have shown themselves wise enough to believe the things that the government wants to hear.

    Clearly, anyone who thinks differently isn't an expert - otherwise they wouldn't be so mistaken.

    So, for an example dear to my heart, we've already had an " expert panel " reporting on the best way to teach reading. Chaired by an "expert" who already had a very fixed view of what the conclusion ought to be. Who then took evidence from other experts, these being the people who already were advocating the things he wanted to hear advocated.

    Going a long way back, Marples, a road industry insider, appointed Beeching to investigate the rail industry with the clear understanding that Dr. B. believed that the age of rail was over. And we know the result.

    An expert panel is only as good as the person appointing it. And usually this has not been very good.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Governemt "expert committees"

      Given the railways were haemorrhaging money in the face of the developing roads the application of an established scientist engineer and manager makes sense.

      1. Stuart 22

        Re: Governemt "expert committees"

        "Given the railways were haemorrhaging money in the face of the developing roads the application of an established scientist engineer and manager makes sense."

        Bit of a myth. Giving money to nationalised industries is bad. Giving more money to private industry is good innit?

        The losses then were only around half the subsidy given now (adjusting for inflation) which is seen to be essential for a viable transport system. Oh, and foreign shareholders/governments.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Governemt "expert committees"

          "The losses then were only around half the subsidy given now"

          How about expressed as a proportion of GDP?

          1. CliveS

            Re: Governemt "expert committees"

            In 1962 GDP was roughly £27.8bn and British Rail's losses were £104m or 0.37% of GDP. In 2014 UK GDP was £1,971bn and the subsidy was £5.3bn or 0.26% of GDP. However, that subsidy figure is down from the 2006 peak of £6.3bn vs £1,403bn GDP or 0.45%.

            But in honesty that's a meaningless comparison as it ignores so many variables such as volume of traffic (both freight and passenger), cost of rolling cost (note that both the East Coast and Great Western are still using rolling stock developed and built by British Rail in the 70's and 80's).

            Did something need doing with the Railways in 1963? Undoubtedly the answer was yes. But the implementation of the report could have been handled better.

            For reference in the 1980's Japan spent 10% of GDP on railways, a significant percentage of which was spent developing the Shinkansen network.

            1. MJI Silver badge

              Re: Governemt "expert committees"

              But that 70s and 80s developed stuff is so much better than the newer stuff.

              The real mistake was abandoning APT before they had perfected it (it was nearly there).

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Governemt "expert committees"

                The real mistake was abandoning APT before they had perfected it (it was nearly there).

                The Eyeties bought some of the technology and perfected it, and that's what a Virgin Pendolino is. However, the real problem was (for both trains) betting the farm on a technology to avoid straightening out the bends in about four significant locations, when the real barrier to high speed was mainly the signalling (which was known even in the days of the APT).

                1. MJI Silver badge

                  Re: Governemt "expert committees"

                  The Pendodildo is actually a lot less advanced than the APT, it uses transducers to tell it to tilt rather than the G forces, uses screw jacks rather than hydraulic rams.

                  Found out from a chap who worked on APT-E

  13. scrubber
    Childcatcher

    Policy based evidence

    Nice to see the morality of our betters is to be gradually forced on us proles.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Policy based evidence

      Like western civilisation, would be a good idea.

  14. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge
    Pint

    bah!

    I work on the principle that the amount of stress that comes with worrying about something and then not eating or drinking it is worse than the effect of not worrying and eating/drinking it anyway.

  15. djack

    I know it's not good for me...

    ... not drinking, that is.

    I decided to go 'dry' for the first three weeks of the year and I've surprisingly succeeded without any problems. Apparently you are meant to feel better for it, but I've had more random aches and pains and twinges this past fortnight than ever before.

    Glad that I get to have a beer tonight

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: I know it's not good for me...

      Three weeks? I didn't last three days...

      In my defence, it was the thought of going back to work the following day which broke my resolve.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: I know it's not good for me...

        I just thought, sounds like bollocks and stick to my moderate drinking regime.

        I ENJOY a quality bottle of cider or beer 6 or so nights a week.

        Getting pissed is no fun (I _HATE_ hangovers). Being teetotal I reckon is bad for you

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bit late to the party ?

    When this was discussed on R4, a fortnight ago, the person criticising it shot it down in one sentence by pointing out the reports logic assumed zero intake of alcohol was completely risk-free. Recalling the old joke that my Uncle gave up smoking and *still* died.

    Controlled usage is not usually fatal and abstinence is not immortality.

  17. Lysenko

    Sheffield University: Tough on facts; Tough on the causes of Facts.

    When your Ideology conflicts with the Evidence then vary your frame of reference until the Evidence conforms to your Ideology. My namesake was THE poster boy for this.

    1. Richard Wharram

      Re: Sheffield University: Tough on facts; Tough on the causes of Facts.

      Great title. Have a rep :)

  18. Rol Silver badge

    Idiocracy

    I see the government are avoiding setting academically proven safe levels for:- idiocy; arrogance; expense claims; selfishness; thoughtlessness...

  19. Daz555

    I just don't see advice on alcohol ever gaining the traction it needs to make any difference to people's behaviour. Alcohol is so engrained in our culture. Smoking never was ingrained into culture in the same way so a message about it being bad for you is much easier to sell (helps that the evidence is overwhelming of course)

    Telling people they can only have 14 units a week when they are likely planning to down twice that in one Friday night is not going to get them anywhere. The advice is simply ignored - in fact it is openly mocked.

  20. Rol Silver badge

    Shirley

    The safe level for alcohol consumption is at or about ground level.

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Shirley

      You're not drunk if you can lie down without holding on

    2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: Shirley

      I dunno, I find a glass of brandy or three helps on transcontinental flights...

  21. Blank-Reg
    Pint

    I was on a dry January, until this debacle surfaced. Then I had a sudden urge to be contrary.

    Bottoms up *hic*

  22. Sykobee

    In addition, alcohol in moderation reduces anxiety, stress, and all those other bad things.

    Reducing these things is a useful thing in a typical work environment. companies should be forcing their employees to drink a couple of pints every lunchtime!

    The new limits are such a joke that they will actually now be totally ignored, the old limits, pulled out of thin air as they were, at least were achievable on the odd week of sobriety.

    Anyway, the stats say that 40 units have the same risk as 0 units (there's a J shaped curve, 10-15 units is ideally healthy), so that's my new upper limit (if I'm feeling risk averse that week). Of course, if you are willing to take a little risk, 50, 60, 70 units is fine.

  23. PaulyV

    Youer not the bboossss of mee....mmm...zzzzzzzz.

  24. Paul Johnston

    A Little Video

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxYrzzy3cq8

    Nice little video, especially the bit about smoking and statistics.

  25. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    The problem with excessive caution....

    Once you're deluged with warnings about absolutely everything you just start to ignore them. They really should be trying to set guidance that people who do drink might be plausibly expected to attempt, even if that level isn't entirely safe.

    1. Cameron Colley

      Re: The problem with excessive caution....

      Indeed. A friend once told me they'd been advised to try to drink one non-alcoholic drink for every alcoholic one when "binge drinking" as a way to keep blood alcohol lower and reduce dehydration. Whether or not it does your health any good I'm not qualified to say but I'm sure it keeps you from drinking as much alcohol and I know in hot climates it does make the hangover less obvious.

      It is said that eating properly before drinking is a good idea also -- how about trying to encourage that?

      There are lots of little "tricks" that can either help reduce consumption or, perhaps, change focus a little which I am sure could help makes attitudes to drinking more healthy.

      But, no, the government hires some puritanical moron to tell people something which isn't true instead. Shows just how much contempt they hold us all in -- they can't even pretend to give a shit about the people who pay them.

      1. Vic

        Re: The problem with excessive caution....

        It is said that eating properly before drinking is a good idea also -- how about trying to encourage that?

        Depends on what you're trying to achieve.

        Eating first tends to prevent the peaks in blood alcohol - but if getting pissed is your target, then this actually causes you to drink more alcohol in total for the same effect. This is a net detriment to your liver.

        Vic.

  26. Tromos

    What about the healthy mediterranean diet?

    After all, it is incomplete without a carafe of wine accompanying the meal.

    1. Diogenes

      Re: What about the healthy mediterranean diet?

      You mean the one pulled out of Ansel Key's a**e ?

      He happened to visiting the island where made the observations (sorry can't remember of Rhodes, Malta or Crete) during Lent ( lots and lots of no meat) , and naturally assumed this was "normal" & thus the "Mediterranean" diet was born.

      Ansel Keys - deserves a place in the innermost circle of heck for the damage he has wrought

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: What about the healthy mediterranean diet?

        "Ansel Keys - deserves a place in the innermost circle of heck for the damage he has wrought"

        It's perfectly safe and valid to say "Hell" when naming the "place".

        Unless you mean the tiny little hamlet near Lockerbie in Scotland.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: What about the healthy mediterranean diet?

          'It's perfectly safe and valid to say "Hell" when naming the "place".'

          Heck is in Yorkshire http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?x=459500&y=421500&z=120&sv=great+heck&st=3&tl=Map+of+Great+Heck,+North+Yorkshire+[City/Town/Village]&searchp=ids.srf&mapp=map.srf as is Hades http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?x=413762&y=404930&z=115&sv=413762,404930&st=4&ar=y&mapp=map.srf&searchp=ids.srf&dn=841&ax=413762&ay=404930&lm=0

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Correct Conclusion

    The results of the studies I've seen would support the conclusion that moderate alcohol intake is beneficial to your health.

    However, constant exposure to bogus studies with nonsensical conclusions passed off as "science" does have an adverse impact on faith in anything the "experts" tell you.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Check the actual evidence on "secondhand" or even "thirdhand smoke".

    This is nothing new. Medical Public Health types lie - it is what they do. The non-medical ones generally have to be restrained from kicking a clue into them.

    Hence sugar taxes, plain packaging for tobacco (Which raised smoking levels in Australia), "no safe limit" for alcohol. Fat taxes (Ask the Danes about that one - it didn't last long)

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Second hand smoke makes my clothes and hair smell

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Second hand smoke makes my clothes and hair smell

        Doesn't that make people look at you strangely? I mean, noses in your hair and on your clothes...

        1. MJI Silver badge

          You stand near someone smoking, then move away, now need to change clothes and wash hair.

          Used to go out and when I got home shower and change to clean clothes for next day.

    2. Paul Shirley

      The "actual evidence on second hand smoking" that indirectly forced the pub smoking ban was staff blood tests regularly finding high enough levels of CO to threaten health. Doesnt matter if most exposure just leaves you stinking of smoke, some of it has more serious effects.

      The pub trade got lucky, they were on the brink of a flood of lawsuits when the ban preempted the issue.

      Most pub users I've talked to approve the ban anyway, including the smokers, who can still appreciate better air quality. Just a pity it took health scares to force action. Politicians and business don't have the balls to ban offensive practice's, they always need some health excuse to hide behind.

  29. Cameron Colley

    My current blood alcohol levels allowed me clarity:

    This is a plot by the inebriati to keep the rest of us from becoming more successful and more powerful:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Zj50DmBFp0

  30. Rol Silver badge

    I want to invade Switzerland!

    Seems like the exchequer asked the question "We want to increase tax receipts in our moribund economy"

    and the computer obliged with a PR managed escalation in fun tax.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Beer tax rise...

    It has to be the reason this wrong 'no safe level' was put out.

    However, now that few trust the advice, any tax rise will stick out like a sore thumb in the March budget!

  32. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    The men/women thing...

    Surely women are typically much smaller than men. I was just out with a friend who's 5' and probably 50kgs, I'm 6'2" and about 100kgs. It seems implausible that we would be equally affected by the same amount of alcohol. Of course not just women are small either, I know blokes that must be half my weight too. Shouldn't size be a factor as much as gender?

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: The men/women thing...

      It may not be linearly correlated, but the driving limit is the concentration in your blood, so it ought to related to (at least) your water content or so.

      Sadly politicians lying about facts & figures (or being "economical with the truth" as they say in parliament) has become so common that people will simply ignore the guidelines. Pushing harder on binge drinking might have made sense (less A&E trouble, etc) but they probably blew that.

  33. Crafty volt 7

    Statistical facts

    politically correct do gooder fascists don't like reality to impinge on their fantasy of how they think reality should be. It's long been a solid statistical fact that moderate consumption of wines and such results in much longer life expectancy rates. Unfortunately this upsets the Apple cart in the do-gooder insanity stream somewhat.......a disease most inhabitants of the muddy island seem to suffer from...

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Life

    A sexually transmitted terminal disease.

    Drink more booze. Eat more bacon.

  35. Simon Kingsbury

    Models vs reality

    "It appears an undocumented model has produced numbers directly contradicted by the empirical real world evidence, and then the real world evidence has been discarded. It must be some model."

    Good enough for Climate Change - why shouldn't it apply to alcohol?

  36. Naselus

    It's obviously true though

    There was no safe level. Even the people in the study who drank nothing at all eventually died. Clearly, the real risk is taking part in statistical surveys, and no amount of alcohol can protect you.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To quote the Vapours...

    No sex,No drugs,No wine,No women,

    No fun,No sin,No you,No wonder it's dark....

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