Curmudgeon News - May 2000

This month's items include:

  • 500 Fine for Street Drinkers
  • Unhealthy Eating Makes a Comeback
  • Trendy Bars Can Damage Hearing
  • Alcohol Deaths Soar (Allegedly)
  • Probably the Healthiest Drink in the World
  • Thailand to Ban Smoking on TV
  • Roads in Worst State on Record
  • Don't Eat and Drive

Complete News Index


  • 500 Fine for Street Drinkers

    Under a new by-law proposed by Manchester City Council, anyone found drinking alcohol outside in the city centre may face a fine of up to 500. City leaders have asked for the crackdown to call time on rowdy and violent behaviour. The aim is to rid the city of gangs of men and women walking from bar to bar, drinking from beer bottles and glasses, which police say are sometimes used as weapons. Like many other changes in the law nowadays, this will penalise law-abiding people for the actions of the irresponsible minority. Although I accept it isn't widespread in Central Manchester, there are plenty of entirely legitimate and harmless ways in which people might drink alcohol out of doors, for example having a bottle of wine with a picnic in the park. You couldn't even take your pint outside the pub to see a parade go by. And it encourages a negative view of alcohol as something to be kept behind closed doors.

  • Unhealthy Eating Makes a Comeback

    In a remarkable reversal of their gullibility about health fads, Americans are reported to be mounting a backlash against the trend for "healthy eating" and food fascism. Such is the force of the reaction that food manufacturers are now advertising products that are high in fat. It will be interesting to see whether this trend has any impact on the Americans' mounting paranoia about alcohol and tobacco, which is steadily spreading to this side of the Atlantic.

  • Trendy Bars Can Damage Hearing

    A survey by New Scientist magazine has found that noise levels in trendy bars and restaurants featuring bare walls and floors and loose furniture can often exceed official safety regulations, even without piped music, because sound is reflected back and not absorbed. In contrast, noise levels in more traditional establishments with carpets, upholstered fixed seating and flock wallpaper could be up to 15 dB lower. Clearly there's nothing wrong with good old-fashioned comfort in pubs - and it's actually better for your health too.

  • Alcohol Deaths Soar (Allegedly)

    The number of people who died from alcohol-related causes soared in the last decade, according to a study by Alcohol Concern. Alcohol-related deaths officially recorded by hospitals increased by a third, from around 3,000 in 1986 to approximately 5,000 in 1997. However, the report claims the real number of all deaths connected with alcohol misuse is closer to 33,000, and that alcohol abuse is costing Britain 3.3bn a year. As overall alcohol consumption has not increased, I suspect the apparent rise is due to a change in reporting methods rather than an underlying trend. Undoubtedly there is a minority of people for whom alcohol does cause serious problems, but the kind of measures proposed by Alcohol Concern are likely to hit moderate drinkers much more than abusers. They may masquerade as a reasonable, even-handed charity, but in reality they are neo-Prohibitionists who miss no opportunity to portray drink and drinkers in a bad light. They know that the chances of getting either large increases in drinks taxation, or new restrictions on hours, are non-existent at the moment, but their long-term strategy is to create an anti-drink climate in public opinion that will pave the way for curbs in the future. For more about Alcohol Concern, see Seriously Concerned in the Curmudgeon archive.

  • Probably the Healthiest Drink in the World

    In contrast to the previous item, beer is probably good for you, a study into the health effects of the drink has found. Dutch researchers have discovered that beer is a good source of vitamin B6, which may help to fight off heart disease and strokes. Beer drinkers had a 30 per cent increase of the vitamin in their blood, twice the increase found in wine and spirit drinkers. The findings, reported in The Lancet, are the latest to show that moderate amounts of alcohol can protect against disease. Yes!! I'll drink to that - mine's a pint!

  • Thailand to Ban Smoking on TV

    The Bangkok Post reports that the Thai Cabinet has approved a ban on smoking scenes on television.The ban will apply to imported, as well as locally produced, programmes. This seems a touch hypocritical when you see so many depictions of highly illegal activities such as murder, child abuse and taking hard drugs on the small screen. If people smoke in real life, then why shouldn't TV depict this activity honestly, which is not the same as glamourising it. In a similar manner, it's becoming increasingly rare to see non-censorious scenes of moderate, legal alcohol consumption on British TV too.

  • Roads in Worst State on Record

    The condition of roads in England and Wales is at its poorest level on record, following a nine per cent cut in maintenance spending since Labour came to power. The official national highway maintenance survey found that the state of roads declined further last year to reach its lowest point since the annual inspection began in 1977. Despite ministerial claims of increased funding for road repairs, spending had fallen in real terms from 2.1 billion in 1996-97, the final year of the last Conservative government, to 1.9 billion last year. In the same period, the annual tax "take" from road users increased more than a quarter to 32 billion. Perhaps they should consider a moratorium on any new "traffic calming" schemes until the backlog has been cleared....

  • Don't Eat and Drive

    Hampshire motorist Kevin Storey was given a 20 fixed penalty ticket for eating a KitKat while driving on the M3. Following an outcry in the press, the ticket was withdrawn and Hampshire police stated that the officer concerned had been well-meaning but overzealous. It was later revealed that Mr Storey had in fact been pulled up for speeding, but the police officer found that his speed recording equipment had not been working, so took the view that if he couldn't get him for speeding he would do him for something else. It's hardly surprising that public respect for the police is evaporating when they show themselves capable of such petty and pointless vindictiveness.

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