Rather than address in detail the specific findings and recommendations of this paper, I would like to voice my reservations about a simple premise upon which it is based.

It seems unfortunate that, in the opening paragraph, the authors include in ‘the alcohol research community . . . [only] . . . individuals and organizations responsible for the production and interpretation of scientific information about the nature, causes and control of alcohol-related problems’ ([1]. p. 191; emphasis added).

There is no doubt that ‘heavy’ or ‘excessive’ drinking of beverages containing alcohol is associated clearly with a broad range of social, psychological and biomedical problems. However, especially during the last decade, we have also seen a host of studies using various methods, based on large samples, over long periods of time, from around the world, with statistically significant evidence that ‘light’ or ‘moderate’ drinking is associated with a broad range of social, psychological and biomedical benefits or advantages. It hardly seems fair that the distinguished scientists who conduct such studies should be excluded from the ‘alcohol research community’ after having devoted years contributing to our understanding of ethanol and its relation to human beings. A brief summary of how this selective view came to be accepted widely is to be found in the paper by Heath [2].

The overwhelming majority of drinking in almost every society about which we have detailed information is linked positively in many ways to celebration, sociability, recreation, enhancement of food, social exchange, religious devotion or symbolization, in addition to various medical and therapeutic benefits [3].

Let us not forget that the founders of World Health Organization, more than 6 decades ago, defined health both inclusively and exclusively as: ‘. . . a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ ([4], p. 100).

It is a narrow dismal view of science and a perverse interpretation of public interest when a community of scholars focus their attention on the less-than-10% of alcohol use that is bad news and deliberately ignore the overwhelming majority of the human experience with alcohol which is—and always has been—healthful and enjoyable for most of those who choose to drink.

Declaration of interest

Although Dr Heath's research on alcohol was entirely funded by scientific and academic institutions, he received expenses and/or fees for work he has conducted on behalf of the International Center for Alcohol Policies (a body funded by the alcohol industry) and agencies of various governments, as well as some beverage industries.