Wine Talk

Snooth User: napagirl68

Is Prohibition on its way?

Posted by napagirl68, May 4.

I have recently seen some general headlines in the "health news" sections of various news sources.  Evidently, the WHO has declared alcohol unsafe in ANY quantity, and wants to discourage its use to ease the burden of public health cost/resources.  Like most medical studies, I approached this one with skepticism.  I subscribe to a medical journal website that emails links to various articles and journal publications.  The one I just read bothered me.  The basic takeaway was:  Any and all forms/amounts of alcohol are linked to multiple cancers; they site a link to cancers such as kidney and pancreas, for which there is actually no definitive proof that alcohol is a cause.  As you delve into the article, the numbers begin to fall apart.  What started out sounding like alcohol is THE cause of cancer, ended up basically saying that while 80-90% of cancers are caused by tobacco, the public ignores alcohol, even though it MAY be responsible for UP TO 5% to 40% of cancer cases.  Quite a spread, IMO.  The direct evidence is still lacking for several cancers that they are working to link (including the kidney and pancreas).  Ok- all that is great and fine.. and like any other study, you have to take it for a grain of salt, as it will all prolly be reversed in another study later. 

But this is what gave me the willies as far as big brother and socialized health care:

Controlling the affordability of alcohol through pricing and taxation can reduce the volume of alcohol consumed, and thereby alcohol-related health and social harms, including cancer and mortality.[1] Increasing the price of alcohol affects all drinkers, from young people to heavy or problem drinkers. Dr. Puska explains:

The most cost-effective way to reduce alcohol problems in any country is reduction of total alcohol consumption. The more that alcohol is consumed in any country, the more alcohol-related problems there are. The experts and the World Health Organization are quite clear that price and availability are the most effective policy instruments to influence alcohol consumption. Price is usually regulated by taxation. Availability relates to such issues as to whom, where, and when alcohol is sold. In addition, drunk-driving policies and mini-interventions in health services have some effect. Health information campaigns alone are not effective, but they are valuable as background for alcohol control measures (Table).

Hmm...  if the bottom line is $$ and the govt is taking over healthcare, I wonder where this will lead?  

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Replies

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Reply by outthere, May 4.

Good freaking luck. Can you say revolution?

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Reply by dmcker, May 4.

We all know how dodgy so many 'causes-cancer' position papers can be (ran a spoof when back in college on how feeding rats unstated amounts of spinach led to cancer--it was based on science at the time but would've meant that any rat would've had to somehow consume a couple tons of the stuff daily). Really need to get down to the details of any study, by anybody, to see what their politics are because too-often some sort are involved. Modern medicine still knows jack-all about how our bodies and selves-as-a-whole truly fit together (e.g. current 'pharma psychs' medicating everyone for anything), even if we do know a lot more in the scientific tradition than we did at the beginning of the Victorian era.

Would be interesting to drill down to who within the WHO campaigned for this study, commissioned it, then all of the study details.

At least you, OT (and through connections maybe you, NG, and Fox and a couple others) might be able to source good stuff pre-tax if your fears, NG, about the US government using such pseudo-science as rationalization for raising tax revenues were to pan out. The rest of us would have to suffer, though it's very hard to imagine taxes rising too much higher in Italy and France and Spain, just to begin with. Wine is far more a part of everybody's daily life there than in the US (except, of course, in OT's case--even though he drinks almost entirely Californian I nominate him for the most-European-lifestyler on Snooth!).

In the US the way around this problem would seem to be to persuade the federal government to jump on the legalize ganja bandwagon, and look for their revenues there instead...  ;-)

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Reply by napagirl68, May 4.

Good freaking luck. Can you say revolution?

A-men, my friend!

We'd all have to escape to GregT's place...

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Reply by napagirl68, May 4.

Dmcker... I agree wholeheartedly.  It is a very political article, and the comments following the article from medical professionals are scathing toward the author, even asking as to her religious denomination.  My point in posting this is because I am concerned that govt is taking too much control over our personal lives.  Didn't they try to outlaw salt in NYC restaurants??   Junk science it seems... why, another study in the last five years found that HEAVY drinkers live longer than nondrinkers, adjusting for smoking AND being a prior heavy drinker who quit!   And this was funded by a group with the motive to prove drinking deadly.  Hmmm.  So no, the science part of this doesn't scare me... it is the political manipulation side that does.  Taxation?  Really.   Booze will go the way of tobacco soon, mark my words.  More money to line the pockets of politicians.

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Reply by dmcker, May 4.

"We'd all have to escape to GregT's place..."

With the appetites of even only a few of us on these boards, forget about it. Even GregT's and GDP's cellars combined wouldn't stand a chance....  ;-)

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Reply by dvogler, May 4.

It's no secret that alcohol isn't exactly "good" for our bodies.  This is a major factor in the heavy taxation of alcohol in Canada.  We have, for all intents and purposes, public health care.  It consumes a massive chunk of all government revenues in Canada.  The US, IMHO, will never have such a health care system.  The hospitals are "for profit" entities.  Insurance companies are very much in control.  NG, I don't fear prohibition in Canada and I think you've far less reason to fear its ratification there.  Consider how big the wine industry is in California.  I doubt that the government wants to mess that up!

Anyway, I need a drink!

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Reply by outthere, May 4.

"Wine is far more a part of everybody's daily life there than in the US (except, of course, in OT's case--even though he drinks almost entirely Californian I nominate him for the most-European-lifestyler on Snooth!)."

Well thank you, I try to do my part. I do enjoy a bottle almost every evening. Sometimes more than 1! ;)

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Reply by outthere, May 4.

"Controlling the affordability of alcohol through pricing and taxation can reduce the volume of alcohol consumed, and thereby alcohol-related health and social harms, including cancer and mortality.[1]"

So, how has that worked in the US with gasoline? Ridiculous assumption.

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Reply by napagirl68, May 4.

"Controlling the affordability of alcohol through pricing and taxation can reduce the volume of alcohol consumed, and thereby alcohol-related health and social harms, including cancer and mortality.[1]"

So, how has that worked in the US with gasoline? Ridiculous assumption.

EXACTLY.

 

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Reply by napagirl68, May 4.

The US, IMHO, will never have such a health care system.  The hospitals are "for profit" entities.  Insurance companies are very much in control.

Umm... Dvogler- maybe not so much anymore.  Our "healthcare reform" has taken the first step in basically forcing a level of govt. sponsored medicine.  You must now show proof of health insurance, via your employer or buying on the "exchanges", or one faces a tax penalty  that increases yearly.  Unfortunately, things are not working out so well for some folks. I have seen several news reports on lower income wage slaves who are paying $300/mo or so for a plan on the exchanges, but cannot find providers, so they are back at the free clinic (where they went before all of this).  AND they're paying an additional monthly fee for useless insurance.  It's a tax, plain and simple.  For those who do not file returns (no income) they cannot be penalized.  IMO, it is direct path to socialized medicine. 

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Reply by dvogler, May 4.

I had begun a discourse on the benefits of universal healthcare, but it had a defensive tone.  I'd be happy to discuss it though.  I lived in the States and heard massive misinformation on the subject, which I attributed to deep pockets of Republicans and their big insurance/pharma/hospital supporters.  I don't see an easy transition to health care like Canada's, but basically, we do pay far more in taxation here, but we can go to the doctor of our choice, hospital, for tests and procedures and never see a bill.  I hardly think that's something to be afraid of.

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Reply by gregt, May 5.

My place is kind of wine-starved at the moment as my wine languishes in New Jersey. I'm reduced to drinking whatever I can scrounge, although I did score some wonderful Riesling recently (Markus Molitor, one of my fave producers) and I've been drinking a lot of CA Syrah.

Anyhow, the author of that article is Dr. Pulska no? He's Finnish and he's studied alcoholism in Russia and Finland. In Russia it's clear why they have to become alcoholics, Finland not so much. Theories abound as to the weather, the months of darkness, the cold, the introverted nature of people, etc. But their drink of choice in both places is Vodka. Stats are hard to come by. Some say Finland is the second hardest-drinking nation in Europe and alcohol consumption has risen dramatically over 40 years, others say it's declining.

Here's a kind of amusing take on Finland's problem.

http://www.finlandforthought.net/2007/06/17/what-makes-finlands-drinking-problem-different-from-everyone-else/

And here's something more serious:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6106570.stm

My take is that the good doc is trying to get some EU funds up Finland's way. Russia obviously doesn't consider itself part of Europe, but Finland does and maybe that's what he's looking for. France claims wine is a national heritage, whatever that means, although they're also on the warpath against alcoholism.

But I don't see any prohibition in the near future. The US was burned on it before and in today's society would never try something like that again. Europe has too much invested in wine and beer to try any kind of a ban. Cripes, can you imagine the Brits watching soccer w/out being completely wasted?

But if anyone wants to come down and consume, please do!

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 5.

I refuse to take a backseat to OT on the whole Euro lifestyle thing.  My folks had us drinking wine from an early age and the wife and I manage to polish off a bottle nearly every night!  What do I have to do?

Okay, joking aside, I am going to offer some purely anecdotal evidence: Ernest Gallo lived to be 97.  His brother Julio died younger--82--but only because he was in a car crash.  Robert Mondavi was 94 and still on his game when he died.  Frank Indelicato lived to 87 and was strong and cogent to the end.  John Parducci died this year at 96--after fighting to regain control of his winery in his 70s and failing, he started a new winery with his grandson.  Peter Mondavi is still alive at 99.  Everyone of those guys drank wine virtually every day.  Cause and effect?  I aim to be an experiment of one.

On this forum I'm not going to get into a debate on universal healthcare, vs. universal health insurance, which is what the ACA is about, but it is a bit unseemly that the massive amount of government assistance to, say, weapons labs and defense contractors, and the concurrent government control of scientific information without transparency, goes unremarked while people complain about creeping government control of life.  I'd add that horror stories about bad insurance under the ACA have been debunked--if you can name the person to whom you refer, I'd gladly give the story a look.  When the government provides Cadillac health insurance--as it does to me and millions like me, including Dick Cheney--it's kind of amazing to complain that the government is (sudenly) involved in the health care markets. Also, lots of temperance advocates are otherwise "conservative," in that they would oppose any regulation on business or anything that would look like Obamacare, the EPA, or a host of other things.  I don't think that Mormons and the National Nurses United are exactly in the same camp, but the latter are quite in favor of single-payer, while the former are temperance advocates and anti-any medical insurance reform. 

Hysteria by some temperance advocate is hardly a sign that the ACA is the end of the world and I don't see the connection.  There, I said it.  You might have your legitimate complaints about the ACA--I do, but probably in the other direction, as a fan of Canada's system, and Australia's--but this is a bad jumping off point for that discussion. 

Would you please post a link for the article you refer to? I went to the WHO website, and they have quite a bit of information on the "harmful use of alcohol."  They don't seem to have any policy that all use is harmful.  (Anecdotally, I had a nice dinner with two bottles of wine with a WHO scientist in Geneva summer before last--he had no qualms.) They suggest regulation, taxation and criminal penalties for drunk driving--all of which are standard strategies of any country seeking to capture or eliminate negative externalities of any behavior. Excessive drinking has lots of external costs that we bear as citizens.  Assigning them to the behavior--like paying for roads and air pollution costs through gas taxes instead of general taxes--is fair.  Keeping alcohol out of the hands of unsupervised minors--really, how radical is that?  Closing bars at some hour for a little while?  Hardly a step toward revolution, unless it's the industrial revolution--Britain forced pubs to close midday so workers didn't get drunk and ruin the machines (hurting themselves was a secondary concern).

Elsewhere on these forums, I've advocated for a floor price on alcohol--in other words, no more insanely cheap vodka--on the theory that, at a pretty low level of price, the purely drinking-to-get-insanely-drunk crowd is discouraged.  It's been suggested in the British Isles and British Columbia has implemented it successfully, although (again) the evidence isn't conclusive.  It doesn't cost someone buying $15 wine anything because that meets the floor price.  (Actually, cheaper wines do, too--the formula takes into account proof as well as price.) The biggest question is how elastic the demand for ETOH is among the problem drinkers.

BTW, there was just a good piece on NPR (ooh, socialism!) on the inelasticity of gas demand this time of year.  We've never actually used gas taxes to discourage consumption in the US.  They pay for roads, and are often used to for general revenue (which is a shame because gas taxes and reg fees fall far short of paying for the socialized costs of cars, like roads, adverse health effects, excessive storm runoff from paving over the eath, and the pollution it contains from cars...) However, a few years ago, gas prices rose to what are now common levels at the onset of the Iraq war and consumption dropped.  A number of economists suggested (here it is!) a floor price to keep demand at that level and encourage less dependence on foreign oil.  Unfortunately, Bush the younger, who had no problem socializing the costs of elder's prescription drugs in a system with verified horror stories, wouldn't go for it. Nice article on gas price studies is available here.

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Reply by napagirl68, May 5.

GregT,

Wow... that's amazing about Finland... and curious as to why.  In that context, I can see an effort for trying to bring some sort of assistance to that region.

Foxall,  the link is:  http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/824237

Intro to the article:

Responsible Drinking? Not Very

"Responsible drinking" has become a 21st-century mantra for how most people view alcohol consumption. But when it comes to cancer, no amount of alcohol is safe.[1] That is the conclusion of the 2014 World Cancer Report (WCR), issued by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

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Reply by dmcker, May 5.

"My place is kind of wine-starved at the moment as my wine languishes in New Jersey."

I was naturally assuming we would be descending upon NYC, thus including GDP's cache.  For the lifestyle San Diego wins hands down (waiting for your response here, Greg), but with the chance to gut those two cellars, it's worth the schlep to the far East Coast.

 

Good posts, Greg and Fox. Thanks especially for the links. No time to go to them all right now, much less respond, since I have to go try to snag some national and city money for the kids in Fukushima.

May have some more of those auction dregs tonight. Will see.

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Reply by napagirl68, May 5.

For the record, no, I actually do not believe a Prohibition like that of the early 1900's will come of all of this.  I thought that would be a catchy heading, and it seemed to have worked;-)  The US govt lost so much money during that time, so I doubt that would even happen again.  Also, if the govts of various countries wanted to really slash health care costs, I would think that cigarettes/tobacco would have been gone long ago.  Instead, various entities have limited or prohibited the use of tobacco in public places.  And then there is the taxation factor, of course.  This effort kicked off after the reports of the effects of second hand smoke.  Now, I am not necessarily disagreeing with that.  I have never smoked, and don't like it around me at all.  I am just making an observation.

The statement that alcohol is unsafe in any amount is what bothers me, especially since there have been many recent studies that show the opposite.  It sounds like a politically motivated statement/article vs. a scientific one.  I don't think alcohol to excess is a good thing; I don't think alcohol abuse is a good thing;  I don't think limiting alcohol to those under 21 is a bad thing.  I just disagree with that statement.  From a strictly scientific standpoint, that statement flies in the face of numerous other scientific studies, plain and simple.

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Reply by gregt, May 5.

I agree. Seems like a political statement, likely to raise some funds but maybe because the guy is a crank or maybe because he really really believes it although as you say, it contradicts every other study.

As far as controlling behavior with the tax code, that works in some cases, not so much in others. Partly it has to do with elastic and inelastic demand, but partly with things that are harder to control. If you give people tax breaks for investing in fish farms, that's what they'll do. If you give them tax breaks for painting their houses blue, that's what they'll do. And they'll stop doing those things if you tax the hell out of them.

But if you tax alcohol, I don't know that you really stop consumption at all. NYC wants to ban smoking so the tax on a pack of cigarettes is enormous. So what happens? People smuggle them in from elsewhere. That and gasoline smuggling is mostly controlled by the Russian mob. People still buy the cigarettes, they just buy them from outright thugs instead of more respectable types. There's a point at which the tax code doesn't affect behavior the way you want it to. People figure work-arounds. If the tax is just a bother, they'll pay it, but if it's crippling, they'll avoid it. That is what happens in many countries, and is one reason for many European economic problems.

The tax code is a very crude tool.

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Reply by dmcker, May 6.

I already posted this in another thread, but it also seems appropriate here:

 

 

 

In this instance best guesses point to even more political motivation, from several waystations along the story chain...

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Reply by jtryka, May 7.

This is all crazy talk!  I am convinced that the real cause of cancer is that we have conquered most of the diseases that used to limit life expectancy to 40-60 years, and now that people are routinely living to 80 and beyond, they develop cancer and other diseases that were seldom an issue a century ago.  The solution, drink more and enjoy the time you have!

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Reply by Wineogre, May 10.

Top causes of cancer (In no particular order) Human Papilloma Viruses (There is a vaccine for a fair few of these), Epstein Barr Virus, Hepatitis B virus (Good vaccine for this) Hepatitis C virus (good treatments for this now), Medical and dental X-Rays, air, water and food pollution, nuclear power accidents, cigarette smoke poisoning, marijuana smoke, bushfires, coal fired power stations, asbestos, BRCA1 and BRCA2,Hereditary Familial Polyposis, Lynch syndrome, Multipe endocrine neoplasia syndromes, HIV (now manageable with treatment). Alcohol by itself, particularly wine drinking, in moderation, pales into insignificance.

 

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