Wines and Liquors

Prohibition Impulses Really Have Changed

Alcohol can have some seriously bad effects on health and life. So a century ago, zealous advocates worked to ban alcoholic beverages altogether and they briefly succeeded in a number of countries, including the U.S. But the impulses for prohibition faded away because of popular resistance and unintended consequences.

Today, the harm that stems from alcohol use is no less. But the expression of prohibition impulses is very different. This week, the Alcohol Health Alliance seems to think it can deter people from drinking wine by telling them it has too much sugar in it.

Are we now more concerned about sugar-sweetened beverages than alcohol?

A Survey of Sugar Content in Wine

The Alliance published a survey of sugar content in 30 bottles of diverse wines popular in the UK. For a glass of wine, the maximum sugar content they found was 13.8 grams in bubbly pink moscato. Compare that with 39 grams of sugar in a 12 oz can of Coke.

Alliance Chair Ian Gilmore sees a big problem with not labeling the sugar content in alcoholic beverages:

“Alcohol’s current exemption from food and drink labelling rules is absurd. Shoppers who buy milk or orange juice have sugar content and nutritional information right at their fingertips. But this information is not required when it comes to alcohol – a product not just fuelling obesity but with widespread health harms and linked to seven types of cancer.”

Information Distortion to Serve a Higher Purpose?

Let’s be frank. Sugar is not the biggest source of harm from drinking too much wine. It’s the alcohol. It causes problems with heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems. It also interferes with immune function, brain function, and mental health. Dependency is a big problem that cascades into serious social problems.

The supposition that moderate alcohol consumption might help with heart health is controversial and seems to have more backing from alcohol business interests than from scientific rigor.

And finally, focusing on the sugar in wine is absurd because the alcohol – in addition to all of its other hazards – has almost twice the calories per gram that sugar does.

Right now, sugar is the boogeyman. Sugar sweetened beverages inspire fear in health conscious people. So we can see the rationalization for harping on the sugar in wine. But it’s hard to buy that as a good strategy for promoting health.

Because a campaign that depends on information distortion will not hold up well under scrutiny. Distracting people from the real harms of alcohol is ultimately unhelpful.

Click here and here for more on this campaign from the Alcohol Health Alliance. For more on alcohol and health, click here, here, and here.

Wines and Liquors, painting by Maurice de Vlaminck / WikiArt

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February 18, 2022

2 Responses to “Prohibition Impulses Really Have Changed”

  1. February 18, 2022 at 10:50 am, Allen Browne said:



  2. February 18, 2022 at 5:26 pm, Chester Draws said:

    The supposition that moderate alcohol consumption might help with heart health is controversial

    Only because the neo-temperance types fight tooth and nail from it being accepted.

    It’s no surprise that the link you posted doesn’t even attempt to be impartial. It leads with the word myth in the title. They haven’t set out to study the problem, they determined what they wanted to find and then found it. No surprise there.