Curmudgeon News - December 2000

  • Alcohol 'Improves IQ'
  • You're Fitter with Bitter
  • Go-Slow Shoppers Face Fines
  • Lightweight Solution to Drunkenness
  • Tough Tobacco Warnings Approved
  • Men Stick to Junk Food and Beer
  • Ecstasy Linked to Brain Damage
  • One Third of Cigarettes Now Imported
  • Police Suffer Crash for Every Car

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  • Alcohol 'Improves IQ'

    Moderate drinking may actually improve brain power, according to Japanese research by the National Institute for Longevity Sciences. It is thought that an ingredient of alcoholic drinks may help restrict the hardening of the arteries which could lessen blood flow to the brain. Men who drank up to 540 millilitres of sake or wine a day had an IQ 3.3 points higher than men who did not drink at all. However, senior researcher Hiroshi Shimokata spelled out the dangers of heavy drinking, particularly binge drinking, which is known to actually reduce brain power. Well, I always knew that was true, but it's good to see it proved by proper scientific research. Pity about the heavy drinking bit, though....

  • You're Fitter With Bitter

    Brewers are to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds trying to convert wine and spirits drinkers to beer, by telling them "Itís good for you." A huge new campaign will use medical studies that claim beer is as good for the heart as red wine. Those who drink ale in moderation are said to be less likely to be overweight than teetotallers. Brewers and Licensed Retailers' Association spokesman Mark Hastings said the campaign, the first since 1934, would focus on the "many benefits" of ale. He added: "Beer bellies are a myth - theyíre caused by the curry you have after." What can I add, beyond - I'll drink to that! And all this stuff about red wine being better for you than beer really needs exposing as the snobbish nonsense it is.

  • Go-Slow Shoppers Face Fines

    Shoppers in London's Oxford Street could be fined for dawdling under proposals for a pedestrian fast lane to reduce aggressive behaviour or "pavement rage" among pedestrians on Britain's busiest high street. Local businessmen are calling for each side of the busy West End street to be divided into two lanes, one with a minimum speed of 3mph. Slow walkers found straying into the fast lane could be fined £10, and speed cameras could be used tocatch offenders. I suspect this is all a bit of a wind-up, but it's an interesting mirror-image of the situation on our roads where anyone making brisk but safe progress is increasingly becoming the target of genuine persecution.

  • Lightweight Solution to Drunkenness

    Shadow Chancellor Michael Portillo told a conference organised by the Publican newspaper that the next Conservative government would fight drunken hooliganism by introducing a new category of light beer. They would consider a lower rate of duty on beers of between 1.2% and 2.4% ABV. Well, ten years ago there was a big fuss over sub-1.2% "NABLABs", but in the end it was realised that they would never be anything but a distress purchase for drivers and they have found their own - very low - level in the market. Who the hell is going to buy a 2.4% beer on the grounds that it will make them less drunk? And people who want to cut down their alcohol consumption on health grounds generally choose to drink "less but better" rather than weaker drinks. Not to mention the fact that such beers would taste like diluted piss...

  • Tough Tobacco Warnings Approved

    The European Parliament has approved controversial legislation to force the tobacco industry to print graphic health warnings on Europe's cigarette packs. The warnings would cover at least 30% of the front of each pack and 40% of the back. In addition, national governments would be given the power to order the inclusion of shocking colour photographs showing the possible consequences of smoking, like rotting teeth and diseased lungs. However, British ministers have already rejected the use of graphic pictures of the effects of smoking as going a step too far. How far can you go in the repression of a legal product enjoyed by millions? Surely by now every smoker is well aware of the health risks involved. All this will do is encourage the revival of the cigarette case. Next thing they'll be demanding graphic pictures of mangled bodies in drink-drive crashes, and cirrhosis-stricken livers, on beer bottles. And it's more than a little hypocritical when most Continental countries have far lower tobacco duties than Britain.

  • Men Stick to Junk Food and Beer

    A third of men live on a diet of beer and fast food, according to research from the Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults. However, women are little better, with a third of them eating a "traditional British diet" made up of sugary foods like cakes. The researchers say healthy eating campaigns must be failing, and suggest that they should target particular dietary groups, rather than putting out a blanket message about certain foods. It's hardly surprising that so many men simply say "stuff this, I'll eat and drink what I want" when they're confronted with so much patronising and often contradictory dietary advice. And they want tasty, appetising food, not the bland mush that makes up many "healthy alternatives".

  • Ecstasy Linked to Brain Damage

    Evidence is mounting that regular use of the drug Ecstasy may cause long-term brain changes. Studies in monkeys have already suggested that the drug is toxic to the neurons in the brain, but human evidence has been mainly anecdotal. However, a team from University College London led by Professor Valerie Curran has completed research which suggests that former ecstasy users may suffer memory impairment, even a year or more after giving up the drug. Yet more evidence that widespread use of this drug is storing up serious health problems for the future. And anyone who speaks of it in the same breath as alcohol - which at moderate consumption levels has been shown to be positively beneficial - is being hypocritical and highly irresponsible.

  • One Third of Cigarettes Now Imported

    Figures quoted by Gareth Davis, chief executive of Imperial Tobacco, indicate that over a third of the cigarettes smoked in Britain now originate from abroad, divided evenly between legal imports and smuggled goods. The amount of revenue lost through tobacco importing has now officially risen to £4 billion per year, up from £2.5 billion in last year's estimate. At the rate this is going, within ten years more or less all the British tobacco trade will have been turned over to imports, with grave consequences for both government revenue and public health. Yet Gordon Brown and the rest of the government continue to stick their heads in the sand over this issue and pretend that if they crack down a bit more on smuggling, all will be well. Much the same is true, to a lesser degree, of the drinks trade.

  • Police Suffer Crash for Every Car

    Police drivers in Greater Manchester have had almost as many crashes in a year as the force has cars - averaging more than three shunts every day. Last year, there were 1,196 accidents involving police officers driving the Force's 1,200-vehicle fleet. Police drivers were considered to be at least partially to blame in 630 cases, but of those, only 13 officers were prosecuted and only one was convicted. Eight incidents were regarded as serious because of the level of injury caused and four were fatal. No police driver was found to be at fault in any of the fatalities. When they're constantly lecturing private motorists about the dangers of so-called speeding and other driving misdemeanours, this suggests that there's a lesson somewhere about people in glass houses not throwing stones.

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