Anti-Alcohol Bureaucrats Suppress Health Information

This piece argues that anti-alcohol bureaucrats suppress positive facts about drinking in moderation. Richard Lessner is the author. He has served as editorial page editor of The Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News.


Yet another scientific report details the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. That’s right, the benefits of moderate drinking. But don’t expect to hear about this good news from Budweiser or Bacardi.

Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission prohibits alcohol producers from giving consumers any facts about the health benefits of their legal products.

The government requires alcohol products to carry scary warning labels about potentially negative effects of drinking. Thus, it ensures that consumers receive only half the information they need to make informed decisions about drinking.


News accounts summarized a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers found that moderate drinking reduces the risk of heart-related deaths in men with high blood pressure. Those who had one or two daily drinks were 44 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

Health Benefits

This is not shocking news. The health benefits of moderate drinking have been known to the medical community for decades. Alcohol is good for the heart, it increases levels of good cholesterol, thins the blood, and wards off artery-clogging clots. Therefore, it reduces the chance of heart attack.

These recent findings suggest that men who suffer from hypertension can benefit from a martini or two in the evening. Researchers suspect the same is true for women. And the kind of booze doesn’t seem to make a difference, either. Alcohol is alcohol, whether ingested as beer, wine or distilled spirits.

Anti-alcohol Bureaucrats

The nanny-state health Nazis do not want this kind of factual information to reach consumers. One hand-wringing neo-prohibitionist huffed that the Boston study sends “a very bad public-health message” about alcohol.

For these types, there is no such thing as responsible, moderate drinking. It’s prohibition or nothing. These latter-day Carrie Nations will not tolerate anything good to be said of Demon Rum.

Same Restrictions

The same restrictions apply to tobacco, if anything a product even more irrationally despised by the nanny staters than alcohol. There is, for example, ample clinical evidence that switching from cigarettes to smokeless tobacco can dramatically reduce one’s health risk.

Yet the federal government and tobacco prohibitionist “health” groups refuse to recognize the facts. Thus they prevent such life-saving information from reaching consumers.

Why Deny Facts?

Why should the government deny consumers truthful facts about any product? The FTC restrictions are rooted in a wholly artificial distinction between normal speech and so-called “commercial speech.”

False Distinction

anti-alcohol bureaucrats

No such distinction appears in the Constitution, of course. It’s an invention of the regulatory state and the courts. The theory is that the government can regulate and restrict commercial speech. That’s because of a compelling state interest in protecting the public health against fraud.

Two Problems

anti-alcohol bureaucrats

There are two problems here. First, the framers of the Constitution made no such distinction among various kinds of speech. The whole notion of “commercial speech” would be a perfect mystery to them.

Indeed, Parliament’s restrictions on colonial commercial enterprises — including speech — were one of the fundamental causes of the American Revolution. For the framers, speech was speech. Period.

Second, this is not about a government ban on advertising patently false patent medicine claims. Nor about bogus miracle drugs and fraudulent wonder cures.

All sensible people want consumers protected from dangerous or fraudulent products that could endanger life and health. Instead, this is about a prohibition on truthful scientific facts

No Rationale

There is no public health rationale for banning the beer, wine and distilled spirits industries. They give consumers all the relevant facts about drinking.

Is drinking risk-free? Of course not. Nothing in life is free of risk. Eddie Rickenbacker was the great World War I ace fighter pilot and race car driver. He used to say that getting out of bed in the morning was the most dangerous thing you could do. That’s because life’s activities are filled with risk.

All of life entails weighing risk against benefits. Makers and sellers of legal products should be able to give consumers factual information. Then they can make truly informed decisions.

So, have a drink tonight. It can be good for you. And when you do, lift a glass to liberty.


Reprinted by permission of Richard Lessner.

Anti-Alcohol Bureaucrats


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