Saturday 24 September 2016

Niamh Horan: It's time we were forced to face ugly truth about drink

Appealing to women's vanity, not health, would make a bigger impact in the fight against booze

Published 29/11/2015 | 02:30

'In day-to-day life, wine every night is also perfectly acceptable. If you have a couple of glasses watching television on a Monday night it doesn't raise eyebrows. Try the same with vodka and people start to wonder'
'In day-to-day life, wine every night is also perfectly acceptable. If you have a couple of glasses watching television on a Monday night it doesn't raise eyebrows. Try the same with vodka and people start to wonder'

'How to look your best for the party season' - women's fashion bibles are already publishing their glamour pull-outs on sparkly dresses and how to get those smouldering, smoky eyes that will turn heads over mulled wine at the staff Christmas party.

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They'll pitch all the hottest looks across the high street and there will be supplements dedicated to slimming down a dress size for that lbd.

You'll even get the number of calories in your favourite tipple and the fatty finger foods to avoid.

But one thing the women's mags rarely advise is to simply stop bloody drinking so much.

Of course, men have their own battle with booze.

But here's something thing they won't do: they won't spend hundreds of euro on their look and hours in the salon getting their hair and make-up done, or devote a Saturday afternoon to a hunt for the perfect dress - only to let it all unravel at the end of the night because they can't tell what drink is one too many.

Charity lunches are prime spots for the conflicting attitude.

Their hair and outfits are the best in town, photographers line the entrance for pictures for the social pages, they spend a fortune on the look and then forget all about their behaviour.

In a five-star hotel at a charity lunch in recent years, one well-known woman vomited into a potted plant shortly after the meal.

The manager duly described Dublin ladies' charity lunches as 'carnage'.

The women turn up like a bunch of giddy girls going to their debs. Dolled up and on show, there is an excitement about the place and all of a sudden you've got a day of drinking ahead.

There's the free champagne reception, followed by bottle after bottle of wine at the tables. A lot of these hosts have big budgets so the glasses are continuously topped up without women asking or even noticing.

But it's only a snapshot of the bigger picture in pubs and restaurants around the country.

It's easy to lose track.

In day-to-day life, wine every night is also perfectly acceptable.

If you have a couple of glasses watching television on a Monday night it doesn't raise eyebrows.

Try the same with vodka and people start to wonder.

A vodka to unwind after work, another while cooking, a bottle in the fridge that you plonk in front of you to watch The Late Late Show, and questions would be asked.

This weekend, Professor Donal O'Shea has warned of the danger of alcohol on obesity and general health, liver disease and cancers.

He explains that alcohol is associated with cirrhosis, now one of Ireland's top five killers. Most people with liver disease are not alcoholics, simply habitual drinkers. Likewise he says that alcohol increases your risk of cancer.

One drink a day is associated with a 9pc increase in the risk of breast cancer, while drinking three to six drinks a day increases the risk by over 40pc.

But the problem with all these warnings is that they assume we are willing to give up short-term fun to protect against long-term pitfalls that might never happen.

Dr O'Shea and his colleagues are men of science - they believe that they can win the battle with pure reason. Drinking is bad for your health. That is their message.

But really they should perhaps appeal to women's vanity.

They have already pinpointed the impact of sustained drinking on obesity.

That may well be the way forward. If a woman knows that two extra glasses of wine a week will mean an extra three inches on her waistline - or premature aging - then perhaps moderating the chronic levels of drinking in this country can be curtailed.

But right now the warning arrows are pointing in the wrong direction to gain any attention.

Sunday Independent

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