A friend forwarded me the following Guardian story, which was published on Friday with the sensational headline:
Trinis drink more alcohol than water—Hospedales
In a word, awful. In two words, bloody awful. Any more words and this post will no longer be fit for children.
But as I am of late attempting to be constructive as well as merely scathing, behold the thinking behind my righteous indignation:
T&T is ranked as the 98th among countries with the highest consumption of alcohol.
This is a non-statement. It tells one nothing. Worse, it doesn’t actually make any sense. What are these countries with the highest consumption of alcohol, pray tell? And how many of them are there? Or did the hapless reporter, Richard Lord, mean to say:
Measured in litres of pure alcohol consumed by its citizens in a given year, Trinidad and Tobago ranks 98th globally, Alicia Hospedales, Minister of State in the Social Development Ministry, said during Wednesday’s debate…
She said that information was provided by the World health Organisation (WHO).
Did she, Richard Lord? Did she really mean that someone from the WHO handed her a report on the matter? Perhaps. Rather more likely, Ms Hospedales or one of her staff – unlike say, Richard Lord – did a cursory Google search and happened on this handy Wikipedia-provided, WHO-sourced list of countries ranked by alcohol consumption.
Hospedales said the Government’s decision to increase taxes on alcohol and tobacco products was a good one as it is intended to act as a deterrent to users of those products. Responding to claims from Opposition MPs Ramesh Maharaj, Dr Roodal Moonilal and Chandresh Sharma that the initiative was not likely to succeed, Hospedales said she begged to differ. She said the measure would be successful.
SIGH. There is no evidence in this story of either fact checking or even the most cursory editing, so I shall provide some:
Hospedales said the Government’s decision to increases taxes on alcohol and on tobacco based products as part of its 2010 budget proposals was intended to act as a deterrent to users of those products. Higher taxes tend to be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices, which may lead to reduced demand for the more expensive goods.
Hospedales disagreed with Opposition MPs Ramesh Maharaj, Dr Roodal Moonilal and Chandresh Sharma, who claimed the initiative was not likely to succeed.
The minister said T&T had been ranked among the countries with the highest number of Alcoholics Anonymous groups per capita in the world.
She said from statistics it seemed that citizens of this country were drinking more alcohol than water.
Gobsmackingly awful, but *thinking constructive thoughts*:
The minister said T&T also ranked (is this true? And if so, where? would have to ACTUALLY DO SOME REPORTING) among those countries with the highest number of Alcoholics Anonymous groups per capita.
On that point, there’s only one study floating around on the interwebs as regards “AA groups per capita” – it dates back to 1991 and posits, among other things:
the highest ratio of A.A. groups in 1991 was in Iceland (784 groups/million people), which has among the lowest levels of alcohol consumption in Europe, while the lowest A.A. group ratio in 1991 was in Portugal (.6 groups/million people), which has among the highest levels of consumption.
Which is interesting, given what Hospedales apparently said next (according to Richard Lord, anyway):
She added that it was a strong indicator that alcohol use and abuse “was a major problem in T&T.”
The study noted above implies exactly the opposite. Ah well.
As for this:
She said from statistics it seemed that citizens of this country were drinking more alcohol than water
I demand to see those statistics, unless she was making a glib generalisation. In which case, WHY THE HELL DIDN’T THE REPORTER MAKE THAT CLEAR? Oh, right. Because it makes a sexy headline. *dies*
And so it ends:
Hospedales said the use of alcohol had caused a myriad of problems for individuals, families and the society as a whole. She quoted statistics which showed that in T&T “66 per cent of highway deaths was due to alcohol use, 63 per cent of fire deaths, 60 per cent of motor cycle deaths, 50 per cent pedestrian accidents, 50 per cent of drownings have all been due to alcohol consumption.”
And I edit, because someone should have:
Hospedales said alcohol had caused myriad problems for individuals, families and the society as a whole. She cited statistics [FROM? BECAUSE THIS IS QUITE CONTENTIOUS] which suggest that in T&T, 66 per cent of highway deaths were due to alcohol use. According to Hospedales, 63 per cent of fire deaths, 60 per cent of motor cycle deaths, 50 per cent of pedestrian accidents and 50 per cent of drownings have all been due to alcohol consumption.