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AIM must bite the bullet

by Tom Stevenson, 06/04

This opinion piece was published in Harper's Wine and Spirits magazine in 2000, having originally been published as a letter in AIM (Alcohol In Moderation) newsletter Volume 8. Virtually all of its arguments still stand.

However, in 2002 the British Journal of Cancer (BJC) claimed definitively that moderate consumption can increase the risk of breast cancer. I would maintain that

[1.] this risk is "probably outweighed by the lifetime's cardioprotective effects" (Dr Isabel dos Santos Silva of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, in her summary of the BJC report);

[2.] the BJC research made no distinction between types of alcoholic drink; scientists in Los Angeles have recently found that phytochemicals in grape skins and seeds reduced breast-cancer tumours in mice.

But it is patently obvious that it is no longer possible to state that there is no threat to health from moderate drinking. My call to arms was ignored, although the BMA had indeed fired "the first salvo in the first real battle" of what until 1999 was a very phoney war.

Having no plans whatsoever to counter the next predictable battle, the wine industry found itself defenceless when the government announced in February 2004 that all alcoholic drinks are to carry health warnings. We will now roll over, as the Americans already have, and allow untrue dangers to be blazoned across wine labels while we are unable to counter these with any of the proven health benefits.

We will soon be following the US example to the point that alcohol and hard drugs will be mentioned in one breath. Well, we deserve it. We were complacent, and now we shall reap the reward. Welcome to the new world, where alcohol will become an evil in itself.

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