Should alcohol carry warnings?
Proposals for government-mandated health warnings on alcohol treat Australians as if they are too stupid to look after their own health, and are unlikely to work.
Alcohol is already taxed highly in an effort to discourage consumption, most children are taught about its harmful side-effects in school and we're bombarded with responsible drinking advertising, funded by our taxes. So yet another message from the "Nanny State" about the evils of alcohol is unnecessary.
And the details of these proposals are ludicrous.
For example, in the Blewett Report handed to the Government in January this year, recommendation 27 suggested that pre-mixed drinks should "comply with all general nutrition labelling requirements, including disclosure of a mandatory Nutrition Information Panel".
Is there one person in Australia who thinks that alcohol is nutritious and who would reconsider their purchase of that four-pack of sugary vodka because it had too many kilojoules?
There's no clearer evidence the public health lobby has gone completely off the rails than the proposal that government-mandated health warnings adorn everything from an alcopop to a bottle of Penfolds Grange.
As public health lecturer Dr Michael Keane argues, public health used to be about protecting people from the harmful activities of others. Governments sensibly took action, for example, to prevent the pollution of our water supply. But these new proposals are not about protecting us from each other, but advocate laws that seek to protect us from ourselves.
It's firmly from the "government knows best" school of policy. It stems from an outdated notion that a group of experts is better placed to judge what is good for us than we are.
Of course, advocates of this world view are careful to couch their arguments in more sympathetic terms.
We're told that alcohol warning labels are necessary to protect children, particularly during pregnancy, as if parents are too dumb and careless to exercise caution when starting a family.
Mothers and fathers who don't care about the risks of alcohol consumption to their kids are not going to change their behaviour because of a warning label. No law can protect children against bad parenting.
And just as we have seen with tobacco, what seems like an innocuous proposal at first to help "inform the public" or to "protect children" almost always subsequently morphs into something much more draconian and oppressive.
Australians aren't stupid. Most of us know how to enjoy a drink or two without harming our health. And those who don't won't change because of a government warning label.