Young people binge drinking less

According to a new report conducted by the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR) – and funded by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) – the number of 14-17 year olds that ‘binge drink’ has halved in the last decade.

The research showed that the percentages of people between 14 and 17 years of age that said they had consumed 20 or more drinks on at least one occasion over the last 12 months, had decreased from 10 per cent in 2001 to only 5.1 per cent in 2013, when the data was collected. Furthermore, it was found in the same age group that the amount of people drinking 5 or more drinks in the preceding year, on at least one occasion, had also decreased from 41.8 per cent to 19.8 per cent between 2001 and 2013. 57.3 per cent of this group even said they didn’t drink at all, when asked in the 2013 survey, compared to only 28 per cent in 2001.

This data shows that alcohol consumption amongst minors is decreasing and that proposed new laws, such as the proposed legislation in WA that would heavily fine adults giving under-age persons alcohol without explicit consent from parents, are unnecessary ‘cotton-wool’ ideas.


Greater steps needed in FDA red-tape battle


Interesting article earlier this week from Jonathan Leff and Allan Coukell, writing for the Wall Street Journal, on the need for improved regulatory pathways for trialling drugs against antibiotic-resistant infections. The writers make the following observation ($):

In the 1980s, 29 new antibiotics were approved; another 23 were approved during the 1990s. But only nine new drugs made it to the market from 2000 to 2010, and a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows few drugs in development for the most serious microbial threats such as multidrug resistant Acinetobacter and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

The article notes that the reason for this is principally ‘due to long and expensive development paths, as well as limited revenue potential’, meaning that ‘such drugs are too often not attractive investment opportunities.’

What goes unmentioned is that nations foremost public health agency, the Food and Drug Administration, has been granted more and more regulatory powers over the last 30 years, stifling the development of new drugs and cures. The extent of the FDA’s powers was illustrated most recently in its efforts to control what US citizens can and can’t eat, by banning trans fats.

New proposals in the US Congress, which would give the FDA the power to approve drugs in development without having to go through as large or as many clinical studies, would seem like a step in the right direction. Indeed, Leff and Coukell argue this in turn would make the antibiotic research industry far more attractive and profitable to investors.

However, even via the proposed new pathway, pharmaceutical research companies would still have to go through multiple levels of approval and trialling before the drugs could be given to patients, even those with terminal, untreatable illnesses.

Ultimately, the changes fail to tackle the core problem – that the FDA is a red-tape behemoth that stifles innovation. Congress would be better off reducing the FDA’s powers instead of simply changing existing ones.


US food regulator taking the biscuit


On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided that trans fats are no longer allowed to be used by manufacturers as they are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in human food. They have set a three year timeline for companies to remove trans fats from any foodstuffs they are making (such as these examples). As Daren Bakst at The Daily Signal writes, this is despite the fact that:

In the United States, consumption of trans fat from products containing partially hydrogenated oils has declined dramatically from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about 1 gram per day in 2012.

Trans fats themselves pose only a limited risk when consumed in moderation as part of a person’s diet. Even the Heart Foundation and Eat For Health, who have track records for calling for excessive government legislation and bans – such as when the Heart Foundation called for strict e-cigarette legislation – have not called for a trans fat ban in Australia, simply suggesting people to be aware of their risks and trying to maintain low amounts of trans fats when aiming for a healthy, balanced diet.

The history of trans fats also shows why the ban is short-sighted. They were first developed in the 1920s by Nobel Prize winning scientist Paul Sabatier and became used extensively during the 1950s through to the ’80s as they were seen to be a healthier alternative to saturated fats, widely considered at the time to cause heart disease. Now, however, we are told that trans fats are the harmful substance and in fact saturated fats are not related to heart disease.

Diet is a highly personal topic for most people and dietary choices should not be dictated by government agency rulings, especially when ‘scientific fact’ on what constitutes a healthy diet is always seemingly changing.

The Cato Institute in America has also written on the subject, making some other very important observations not discussed here.


Quit Victoria’s e-cigarette policy would make it harder to quit


Despite offering a credible and safer alternative to cigarettes, Quit Victoria is calling for a ban on the retail sale of e-cigarettes. A seemingly counterproductive move to their aim to reduce the number of smokers in the state, the director of Quit Victoria, Dr Sarah White, has called for legislation to:

  • ban the retail sale of all e-cigarettes;
  • extend smoke-free laws to cover all e-cigarette use; and
  • ban advertising and promotion of all e-cigarettes.

For Quit Victoria to call for a retail sale ban on a product many people consider a valuable aid for quitting is distinctly ironic.

Furthermore Quit Victoria has claimed that:

E-cigarettes [have] threatened to renormalise smoking

Statements like this are completely baseless, as studies have shown that e-cigarettes are not an effective gateway device to tobacco use. This study from Harvard illustrates that in the EU, most e-cigarettes users were smokers trying to quit, with only 1.1 per cent of the 29 million estimated e-cigarette users in Europe being non-smokers. In Great Britain, the percentage of non-smokers using e-cigarettes may be as low as 0.14 per cent.

The statistics clearly show that only  a tiny minority of e-cigarettes users are non-smokers. and that they are almost exclusively, used by pre-existing smokers as a means to quitting. It also reveals the evidence-free attitude of anti-tobacco lobbyists such as Quit Victoria, whose paternalistic approach inevitably increases the coercive power of the state and diminishes individual liberty.

Quit Victoria’s proposal goes against the research on e-cigarettes, as well as common sense. A total retail ban on e-cigarettes would leave many smokers trying to quit with one less effective alternative, and make quitting even more difficult. If Quit Victoria was serious about achieving its goals, it would instead promote e-cigarettes to existing cigarette users.


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