Sunday, 27 May 2007

Children: Behave!

Alcoholic drinks are to carry health warnings similar to those on cigarette packets from the end of next year, writes Laura Donnelly.

The health minister, Caroline Flint, will tomorrow announce a voluntary code under which manufacturers will include labels saying how many units of alcohol each bottle or can contains. Details of government safe drinking limits will also be included.

The labels will also warn women who are pregnant or trying to conceive that they should not drink alcohol.

No, pregnant women should not drink, and of course we should all aim to moderate the amount of alcohol we consume. But I sincerely doubt that sticking a few labels on bottles and cans will have any great effect. The vast majority of us manage to control our drinking quite well without labels (well, most of the time, at least), and those that routinely drink to excess are unlikely to be put off by being told that they are consuming X units per drink, and that they should drink less.

However, what this measure does do is show once again the extent to which politicians and the medical profession regard the public at large as being little more than children, who need their benevolent betters to direct every aspect of their lives. In this they remind me of nothing so much as Mrs Pardiggle, the endlessly pontificating and utterly self-righteous "philanthropist" in Dickens's Bleak House, and I tend to the view that the best response to those who seek to treat us as children is to emulate the response of the brickmaker to Mrs Pardiggle, on the occasion of her attempt to improve his morals in a manner similar to that with which the politicians and physicians are currently attempting to improve ours:
How have I been conducting of myself? Why, I've been drunk for three days; and I'da been drunk four if I'da had the money.

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