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Jewish World Review July 23, 2003/ 23 Tamuz, 5763

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

Eat, drink and sue | Warning: Living is addictive and causes serious diseases, including lung cancer, heart disease, kidney stones and menopause. The only proven way to reduce the health risks of living is to quit.

So might read labels in hospital delivery rooms in order to satisfy the idiot herd out there, which now includes - say it ain't so - alcoholics in Scotland. According to a United Press International story, a dozen alcoholics ages 18 to 60 are suing liquor manufacturers for not warning them that alcohol can be dangerous.

As an American of partly Scottish descent, I think I'm qualified to say: What the hell did you think was wrong with Uncle Rory, you moron?

Some of my best friends are alcoholics and not one has ever considered suing the people who make the brew for not warning them. When you fall facedown in the sand after drinking too much Glenfiddich - but not after a tank of coffee - one might guess something's up.

And of course people do. I don't buy for a minute that anybody with the means to procure liquor doesn't know the risks of alcohol consumption. Or tobacco use. Or the connection between Big Macs and elastic waistbands. We've been here before.

If following the money is the key to most mysteries, this one is solved. Attorneys for the alcoholic plaintiffs plan to study the battle plans used by lawyers who've successfully sued tobacco companies. The goal apparently is to force alcohol manufacturers to provide health-warning labels as is required in the United States.

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Huge success story there, eh? How often do I read a warning label on bottles of wine, my poison of choice? Exactly zero. Why? Because I know what's in the bottle and that's why I'm buying it. Flavor, pleasure and healthful benefits - if consumed in moderation.

I realize alcoholism is a serious problem, and I'm sorry for those who choose to abuse substances and for the families who have to put up with them. But no potential alcoholic is going to cease drinking because of a warning label any more than a potential murderer is going to stop mid-crime because of a law against killing.

Meanwhile, litigiousness appears to be a disease of near-plague proportions. Can't hack your life? Blame someone else, hire a lawyer and retire early. The cost? Your lawyer's one-third contingency fee and your pride.

What the public gets for such insults to the judiciary are ads like the one I saw on television the other night. First I heard the voice, Nurse Ratched's twin sister and now a paid spokesnoid for Philip Morris USA, verbally stroking America's moron class with soothing words about the dangers of tobacco.

"At Philip Morris USA, we understand that people want to know where we stand on tobacco issues," said the voice. "We agree that there is no 'safe' cigarette. Cigarette smoking is addictive and causes serious diseases, including lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema. The only proven way to reduce the health risks of smoking is to quit."

They might as well have concluded: "There we've said it. You knew it anyway. Now go buy some cigarettes and eat your broccoli."

The truth is, alcohol in moderation won't make you an alcoholic. Research shows that even cigarettes in moderation won't necessarily kill you, absent other contributing factors. Famed biochemist Bruce Ames of the University of California at Berkeley said more than 10 years ago that cigarette smokers who eat lots of fruits and vegetables cut their risk of lung cancer in half.

Likewise, the occasional quarter-pounder isn't going to make you fat. But if you're like one of those cocaine rats that can't stop banging the lever for more, you might want to avoid substances that are known risks for disease and bad behavior.

Anyone who's glanced at a newspaper or news program in the past 25 years knows that heredity is the clearest indicator for health risks. A history of family obesity, for instance, suggests a risk for obesity. Repeat after me: Duh.

If four out of five uncles are drunks, you might want to avoid alcohol. Heart or lung disease? You might figure tobacco smoking is - all together now - A-Bad-Choice.

But no one else is to blame for one's own choices, it should go without saying. The fantasy solution is that lawyers, for their own good, resolve not to accept clients who demonstrate no self-control. Recent trends suggest, after all, that litigation is addictive. And whose fault would that be?

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