Right in the centre - New guidelines announced


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

When I was quite young, that is in the early 1960s, our school had a number of speakers come in to our school. I don’t remember if the one particular speaker was from the government or perhaps from Alcoholics Anonymous but I do remember the message. The man said, “The only way to avoid becoming an alcoholic is to never take the first drink.” The sheer logic struck me quite clearly. The implication was that if you never start drinking alcohol you can’t become an alcoholic. Fifty years ago, alcoholism was a problem and it’s still a problem today. Everybody has seen or been affected by alcoholism. 

In the many years in between now and the 1960s, the pressure to consume liquor has become a mainstay of advertising. You can’t go very far without being bombarded by how good the party will be or how good you will feel if you consume alcohol. The government also advertises how to cope with drinking and living, drinking and driving and how to get help for alcoholism.

New alcohol consumption guidelines were released Tuesday by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, or CCSA. Their studies recommend a huge reduction in consumption, down to two drinks per week. The implication is that alcohol consumption causes cancer and other diseases. Many people who have observed the onset of dementia will relate it to heavy alcohol usage. These types of warnings come in addition to the usual cautions against weight gain, possible harmful behaviour and the devastation to individuals and families due to alcohol addiction.

While all this information, both old and new, is helpful and it may actually curb consumption somewhat, it is still all about individual decisions. The information should be put out there for all to see, but I hope the government doesn’t get too involved in the process.

Already there are pleas for more government restrictions on the sale of alcohol. Some want to see pictures put on booze bottles in the same way as pictures on cigarette packages. Pictures showing all kinds of grim health results from smoking.

People know that smoking tobacco is both expensive and harmful. People know that alcohol consumption can be devastating. I doubt that pictures will have much effect, but I may be wrong.

Anyway, the key message in the recent recommendations, that more than two drinks a week increase health risks. Seven drinks a week apparently raises risk quite high for cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

Some people already avoid these stated risks by not smoking or drinking and that’s a good thing. Some use tobacco or alcohol in moderation, but everybody knows that both are addictive. Some will say the alcohol and tobacco aren’t nearly as bad as illegal drugs, and that is true.

The point is that whatever we put into our bodies has an effect and often harmful ones. In addition to the above named products, there are many prescription drugs and ordinary foods that can be harmful as well. I daresay, obesity probably wears down more people than alcohol.

That all said, my school days speaker’s advice to never take the first alcoholic drink was good advice. I admit, I have not always followed it. The never take the first one applies equally to tobacco, marijuana, illicit drugs and many other substances. 

The advice doesn’t apply to food of course. Not eating isn’t an option but healthy food choices are an option, and need to be sought out.

I just hope that governments restrict their activities and public expenses to putting out accurate information and not get into mountains of regulations and expense. Put out accurate information and let people make their choices. Save us the wearisome blather and public expense.

Let people decide and please cut the regulations.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.