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Thursday, July 28, 2016

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A prudent note of caution about making predictions based on dogma from Dr Holmes.

Gilmore and Sheron's article was an obvious attempt to uphold two articles of faith in the 'public health' lobby. First, that consumption is overwhelmingly dictated by price. Second, that alcohol-related harm and mortality are directly tied to per capita consumption.

They do this by using graphs that appear to show both alcohol consumption and alcohol-related mortality peaking in 2008 and conclude that 'the trends in alcohol related deaths coincide with trends in consumption of cider, wine, and to some extent white spirits and strong lager, and are consistent with the population consumption theory'. But their figures for alcohol consumption are for total volume sold, not per capita (ie. they do not take the growing population into account).

Per capita figures are, of course, the appropriate measure but using them would mean having to admit that alcohol consumption fell between 2004-08 when there was no alcohol duty escalator and alcohol was becoming increasingly affordable. This basic mistake should have been picked up in peer review.

Some of us are still waiting for the 20% decline in alcohol-related deaths that should accompany the 20% decline in alcohol consumption under the whole population theory that Gilmore and Sheron openly endorse. Alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 people are only fractionally down on the number recorded when consumption was at its peak in 2004, to say nothing of alcohol-related hospital admissions which have risen. Indeed, it is interesting that Gilmore and Sheron DO say nothing about hospital admissions - a first for them? - presumably because they, too, do not fit the theory.

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