In my view, the reason why it would be an over-reaction to say that you should have no soda, McDonald's, etc. because too much is bad is that anything - if overused - can be very bad for you. Watching television (depending on what you are watching of course) is not bad in moderation - yet it is very bad if that's all you do. Being on the computer is not a bad thing in moderation, but is very bad if you do nothing else. My point is, if something is not itself a sin - which the link to the Southern Diocese says - then I don't understand the strong encouragement to completely stay away from it because of the possibility of overuse (of course, I do not mean that someone shouldn't be able to choose to stay away from it, or that there is no spiritual benefit to doing so for some people). I mean, with television or the internet, I'd say that there can be a big temptation to either: 1) use them in excess; and 2) use them negatively (viewing things you probably shouldn't be). However, would you then say that it is not overreacting to say "You shouldn't use these at all."?
Also, I would say that a comparison between smoking and alcohol or fast food is a bad comparison. My reasoning for this is that smoking is very addictive. It takes from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to become addicted to cigarettes - which suggests that it is very risky to try and smoke only once in a while. This is not the case with something like alcohol or fast food.
While I obviously can't say that you see many people who overuse alcohol (never having been to Britain), I myself know many people who drink in moderation and do not get drunk. In fact, I know virtually no one who gets drunk yet I know many, many people who drink at least once a week.
I also disagree with comparing defending eating a McDonald's hamburger and defending alcohol consumption because a McDonald's hamburger is going to affect you negatively (though not enough if you eat it once in a while to where I would say it's a problem). By contrast, alcohol when used in moderation is not going to affect you negatively.
Also, I would argue against the assertion that youth are more at risk for excess alcohol consumption if they grow up in a family where drinking is ok. In fact, the evidence shows that young people who drink with their parents are less likely to consume alcohol in excess than those who do not. According to Dr. Mark Bellis (who did a study in England on 10,000 teenagers that concluded this), "The majority of people who are drinking at early ages are not then going on to be problem drinkers later in life. The real issues are around people understanding alcohol, learning about alcohol, being set a good example by their parents.” The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in the US, has concluded the same thing (that being, young people who drink with their parents are less likely to have drinking problems later in life). In fact, students who do start drinking with their parents outperform their peers on standardized tests of math, geography, and other subjects.
As well, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has concluded that moderate drinkers have greater longevity than non-drinkers. In fact, it found that there is a decrease in heart disease by 40 percent to 60 percent. The Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association reported that "The lowest mortality occurs in those who consume one or two drinks per day." A Harvard study found the risk of death from all causes to be 21% to 28% lower among men who drank alcohol moderately, compared to abstainers. A large-scale study in China found that middle-aged men who drank moderately had a nearly 20% lower overall mortality compared to abstainers. Harvard's Nurses' Health Study of over 85,000 women found reduced mortality among moderate drinkers. A study of more than 40,000 people by the Cancer Research Center in Honolulu found that "persons with moderate alcohol intake appear to have a significantly lower risk of dying than nondrinkers.” An Italian study of 1,536 men aged 45-65 found that about two (2) years of life were gained by moderate drinkers (1-4 drinks per day) in comparison with occasional and heavy drinkers. A nation-wide Canadian study found moderate drinkers who consumed alcohol daily to have 15% less disability than the general population. A National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism study asserts that "The totality of evidence on moderate alcohol and CHD (coronary heart disease) supports a judgment of a cause-effect relationship... there are cardioprotective benefits associated with responsible, moderate alcohol intake." A study of 18,455 males from the Physicians Health Study revealed that those originally consuming one drink per week or less who increased their consumption to six drinks per week or less has a 29% reduction in CVD risk compared to those who did not increase their consumption. Men originally consuming 1-6 drinks per week who increased their consumption moderately has a 15% decrease in CVD risk compared to those who made no change. A study published in the American Heart Association's journal found abstainers' risk of stroke to be double that of moderate drinkers. A Harvard University study found the lowest levels of hypertension among young adults who consumed one to three drinks per day. The American Diabetes Association reports that "In people with diabetes, light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, probably because alcohol raises HDL cholesterol, the so-called 'good cholesterol.'" An analysis of pairs of twins (23,000 Finnish twins to be more precise) with different drinking patterns found that those who consumed alcohol in moderation had half the risk of developing type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes compared to those who consumed less alcohol. A study of 8,663 men over a period of as long as 25 years found that the incidence of type 2 diabetes was significantly lower among moderate drinkers than among either abstainers or heavy drinkers. These findings persisted after adjusting for age, smoking, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, waist circumference, parental diabetes, fasting plasma glucose, body mass index (BMI), serum triglyceride concentration, and cardiorespiratory fitness. A French study found moderate drinkers to have a 75% lower risk for Alzheimer's Disease and an 80% lower risk for senile dementia. Moderate drinkers have been found to be more resistant than abstainers to five strains of the common cold virus. Those who consumed 2 to 3 drinks daily had an 85% greater resistance. Those drinking 1 to 2 drinks daily had a 65% lower risk and those who drank less than daily had a 30% lower risk than abstainers. An analysis of data from 760,044 men and women who were tracked for seven to 20 years found that moderate drinkers are about 30% less likely to develop kidney cancer than are abstainers. A large prospective study of 59,237 Swedish women age 40-76 found that those who consumed at least one drink per week had a 38% lower risk of kidney cancer than did abstainers or those who drank less. For women over 55, the risk dropped by two-thirds (66%). Harvard researchers have found moderate drinkers to be almost 1/3 less likely to suffer Peripheral Artery Disease (a significant cause of death among the elderly) than those consuming less than one drink per week.
I would also agree with the point that not everyone is equally likely to become an alcoholic. Someone with a family history of alcoholism for instance is more likely to become an alcoholic. Someone who easily becomes dependent on things (including prescription medication) is probably more likely to become an alcoholic. So the idea that just because one in ten drinkers is an alcoholic and therefore the risk is too great for people to drink at all, I find a little bizarre because as with all things, the risk is different based on the individual.