An Invitation to Damage your Livers

The Straits Times, Singapore government’s mouthpiece promotes its wine club; not only that, it has columnists writing about alcohol and full pages in color extol the qualities of all kinds of alcohol.

Amazing isn’t it?

While the harmful effects of cigarettes are well known indeed, the government seems to conveniently forget another danger lurking among us, ie alcohol.

I’ve not seen anyone getting into a car crash after smoking a few cigarettes but consuming several alcohol drinks at a party can immediately impair a person’s judgment.

Excessive alcohol consumption, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA, (CDC) has led to over 140,000 deaths and 360 million years of potential life loss each year in the US from 2015 to 2019, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 26 years. Further, excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 5 deaths among adults aged 20 to 49 years.

CDC defines binge drinking – the most common form of excessive drinking – as consuming 4 or more drinks during a single occasion for women, and for men, 5 or more drinks during a single occasion.

Heavy drinking is defined by CDC as consuming 8 or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men.

I have no access to similar statistics in Singapore, but anecdotal evidence suggests many people drink a lot more than CDC’s definition of binge and heavy drinking, judging from the prevalence of alcohol at most social gatherings and how packed F&B establishments selling alcohol are. Bars seem to be doing a thriving business, post Covid, and now all food delivery platforms are able to deliver alcohol right into our homes 24/7.

Other than restaurants and eateries, and food delivery services, alcohol – unlike cigarettes – being sold is openly displayed at stores, supermarkets, even food courts and advertisements promoting alcohol are allowed, unlike cigarette adverts.

CDC states that excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions, including injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns; violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence; alcohol poisoning; risky sexual behaviors; miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among pregnant women; development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems, cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum; weakening of the immune system; learning and memory problems, including dementia and cognitive decline; mental health problems, including depression and anxiety; social problems, including family problems, job-related problems, and unemployment, ad nauseum.

While we stop at nothing to demonize cigarettes – which is commendable indeed – I suggest we take another look at alcohol and the role it plays in the lives of Singaporeans, especially during this festive period. The same thought processes we are applying to the curbing of tobacco use should be applied to alcohol consumption too before more harm is caused to our population.

Meantime I await the day when The Straits Times features cigars in full color pages; perhaps they will invite me to write about cigars.

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