A new campaign group set up to give drinkers a voice in the national media has enjoyed plenty of success on its first weekend up and running.
Drinkers’ Voice aims to give the public a voice in the debate on moderate drinking, arguing that for too long the anti-alcohol lobby has dominated the conversation.
The group said this has resulted in “misleading statistics and scaremongering news headlines” and it is time to fight back.
An initial PR blitz has secured coverage in The Times, The Sun and The Daily Mail, and The Sun referred to the anti-alcohol lobby as “killjoy government medics”.
The Mail reported on the group’s argument that drinking guidelines cannot be a one-size fits all model, while The Times focused on the group’s poll showing that 80% of 18 to 24-year-olds routinely ignore government health limits on drinking, as do 70% of the general population who drink.
It went with the headline: “Female drinkers call time on ‘ridiculous’ alcohol advice”.
Co-founder Amy O’Callaghan said: “There is no one speaking up for the man and woman on the street. We want to represent people who are saying, I know my limits and I don’t need them to be dictated to me, and I don’t want to feel guilty for having a drink.
“The UK’s drinking guidelines are now among the strictest in Europe. It’s no wonder people are turning away from government health advice.
“We have stopped listening to what they are dictating we should drink. As the poll shows, we’re making our own judgement instead.
“There is clearly a lack of trust in the government’s tone on alcohol advice. So much so that most people have just stopped listening to them altogether.
“For too long, the anti-alcohol lobby has been able to spread myths about drinking and, at the same time, choosing to ignore the health benefits moderate drinking can bring us. We think this has led to nervousness from the government who issued new guidelines last year, which are among the lowest in Europe. Now, we want drinkers to have their say.
“Drinkers’ Voice want people across the country to join them in exposing these myths, talk openly about the benefits and risks of drinking, and bring some rationality to the debate.
“When people stop listening to Public Health advice, there is clearly a credibility issue which needs to be dealt with. We hope supporters of Drinkers’ Voice will donate go help to bridge the gap between government and the public.’
Current spokesperson Charlie Hooson-Sykes added: “There is a culture of shame that is being promoted around alcohol which doesn’t take into consideration the positives: the celebratory elements, the community, the culture. We want to be the voice of those who like a glass of rosé on a Friday night, a glass of champagne on their birthday or a beer in front of the telly.”
Drinkers’ Voice has been set up in partnership with CAMRA and is seen as a positive development by industry insiders.
Paul Chase, head of compliance at CPL Training, said: “What ordinary drinkers think about the issues around alcohol misuse, and the costs and benefits to society of a responsible drinking culture, has been largely absent from the debate. As Drinkers’ “Drinkers’ Voice is a brand-new initiative which seeks to bring the public back into the debate on alcohol and health. You’ll know that for too long this debate has been dominated by the anti-alcohol lobby, which has sought to de-normalise drinking and restrict people’s access to alcohol. As a result, we have seen the UK’s alcohol guidelines reduced last year without credible evidence to justify it.”
Drinkers’ Voice is crowd-funded by individual donations and is not financed by the drinks’ industry. You can visit its website, www.drinkersvoice.co.uk, for further information and to offer your individual support.
It is hoping to gain 10,000 members in its first year.
The group said in its mission statement: “Drinkers’ Voice aims to give the public a voice in the debate on moderate drinking. For too long, the anti-alcohol lobby has dominated the conversation on alcohol and your health, resulting in misleading statistics and scaremongering news headlines. This has left those of us who want to enjoy a drink without the fear of judgement out of the conversation.
“Drinkers’ Voice now wants you to be part of a movement which encourages you to talk about how drinking in moderation is playing a positive role in your life.
Many of us have had a few too many drinks when we are out celebrating birthdays, weddings and other great occasions. Alcohol plays an important role in marking these celebrations. But we can also have a glass of wine over a long lunch and not feel compelled to abuse alcohol or upset people around us.
“Moderate drinking is what suits you, as long as your actions aren’t having a negative impact on you or others. We want Drinkers’ Voice to be a grassroots organisation, so whether there has been a local story which affects your community, or a national headline which aims to denormalise moderate drinking, the Drinkers’ Voice community can share their rational views.
“Within the first few months, we will identify and train up spokespeople across the country who can speak rationally about alcohol. These spokespeople will be able to represent Drinkers’ Voice in local and regional TV and radio interviews.
“We at Drinkers’ Voice recognise that a small percentage of people have a problem with alcohol harm. However, rather than blanket policies on alcohol restrictions which ultimately affect everybody’s ability to drink, we support targeted frontline interventions for those who are most vulnerable to alcohol dependency.”