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Does the Nanny State have to ruin our last pleasure?

We're now slap bang in the middle of the month of excess. Christmas parties, lunches, dinners and oh so many Christmas drinks.

Many of us try our best to monitor our alcohol intake, but it's Christmas and we know we're probably going to be drinking in excess at some point.

We had a bad year or two. Scratch that, we've had a rotten recession. Despite what the Government says about recovery and green shoots, many of us are still having to explain to the kids that if they really want that X-Box, then how about writing to Enda Kenny - he seems to be flush?

So we feel we're more than entitled to let off some steam, kick back and enjoy some cut-price prosecco.

The last thing we need is reports being released making us feel guilty about the - probably excessive - amount of gargle we're going to put back between now and January 1.

Alas, this week we were informed about research from that wonderfully efficient organisation the HSE (the mention of which that makes the most sober of us want to reach for the brandy bottle) which says that a total of 300 women in Ireland develop breast cancer every year because of alcohol.

Seemingly our alcohol related breast cancer is 7pc above the average in Europe - 12pc of all breast cancers in Ireland as opposed to 5pc on average in other European countries.

Okay, We know we drink too much as a nation. I can't speak for you personally reader, but I know I myself probably (make that definitely) drink too much.

bottle

Every so often I'll beat myself up about it, give it all up and before you can say Pinot Grigio, there's yet another tax/bill/charge to be paid out of God knows what money and I'm reaching for the bottle.

I know - and you probably do too - that excessive consumption of alcohol is bad for you. Children who are lucky enough to still receive visits from the tooth fairy know that too much alcohol is bad for you.

I suspect the next door neighbour's cat knows that too much alcohol is bad for you. Which is why I'm wondering at the naivety of Kevin O'Hagan, health promotion manager of the Irish Cancer Society, who thinks that putting warning signs on alcohol labels will somehow stop people from drinking to excess.

"A lot of people don't believe there is a link between alcohol and cancer," he said. "There are no warning signs on the labels and we haven't been very proactive about this."

Bless. Wouldn't it be great if we lived in the sort of world where, if you just put a warning sign on something, people would stop doing it?

'Wow', I can hear all my friends say as they open a bottle of Jameson at Christmas and read the label, 'I never knew that alcohol could cause cancer, there's no way I'm going to drink another drop ever, pass me the orange juice please'.

Sadly - or not so sadly for those of us in life whose last remaining pleasure is a guilt-free glass of vino - the world doesn't work like that.

I used to smoke and I knew that cigarettes could eventually kill me, but I can honestly say that the dire warnings on the packets weren't preventative in any way to giving up the fags.

They were just annoying. Eventually I took responsibility for my own actions and gave up the nasty habit. Because I wanted to, not because I was guilt-tripped into it.

Similarly, people who go to eat in fast food joints like McDonald's and Burger King, aren't getting a Big Mac Meal with extra fries and a bucket of Coke because they're keeping to a calorie-controlled diet.

They know the stuff is fattening and bad for them but it's their choice to eat it anyway.

CALORIES

Putting a list of how many calories a cheeseburger and a portion of onion rings contain isn't going to make a difference, because just by stepping into the place the decision to disregard healthy eating rules has already been taken.

It's all about personal responsibility and knowing that excess is always bad.

Instead of putting money into services which would provide genuine aid for people with alcohol problems, it's much easier to agitate for getting a label stuck onto a box.

Bah humbug to the well-paid do-gooders, is all I can say. Oh, and pass me the bottle while you're at it.


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