Monday, March 16, 2009

There's nothing wrong with alcohol... in moderation. So why can't I be left to decide what 'moderation' means?

At least the Government has chosen to kick the latest proposal from the health police into touch. The idea of a minimum charge per unit of alcohol for retail sales is a seductive one, especially given the incidence of binge drinking amongst the young. Yet it managed to provoke James Parnell, not usually a friend of this blog, to say that he didn't think that everyone should suffer for the behaviour of a minority.

Good. I admit that I enjoy a drink from time to time, although not as much as I used to when I was younger. My capacity, for one thing, is reduced as I get older, but I can now drink a higher quality product. Real ales from micro breweries in Suffolk, a nice sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, an Alsace or a pinot noir, all of these meet with my approval. Because I enjoy the taste and the complexity, I might have a bottle of beer with lunch at the weekend, or share a bottle of wine over dinner occasionally.

I learned most of my early lessons with alcohol at university, one of the safest environments in which to do so. You're generally surrounded by friends who will get you home safely and stop you from doing anything too embarrassing. You're also generally too poor to get dangerously drunk, i.e. the point where you do serious damage to yourself. In such an environment, you learn what your limit is, and the art of nursing a drink so that you have the social benefits without the hangover at the end of it.

So, rather than distort the market, wouldn't it be easier to educate young people to drink responsibly and use the existing legislation to punish those who make alcohol freely available to young people. Note the use of the word 'freely'. I'm not suggesting that parents who allow their older children a glass of wine or something similar should be punished. Indeed, parental supervision can only help young people to develop a mature approach to alcohol. But in moderation, that's all...


Jennie said...

This is a measure which is backed by the save our pubs campaign. A minimum price of 50p per unit wouldn't affect pub prices, but it would stop Tesco selling beer as a loss leader.

I'm not sold on it myself, because I can see that the pub trade's problems are deeper than just the fact that Tesco sells lager for about two thirds the price we pay for it (and no, we can't just buy it from Tesco, the joy of tied contract) but I can see why people are attracted to it, and not all of them are outside the drink lobby.

Simon said...

I had a friend working in alcohol dependence reply to me on facebook over this. He's very much of the opinion that this is a bullet political types won't bite for making themselves unpopular.

News reports on the topic have been unhelpful and muddled, illustrating the story with pictures of rowdy clubbers, implying that it is anti-social behaviour due to binge drinking that this seeks to address. Certainly I've seen many people get the wrong end of the stick and complain that it won't affect such people. Alcohol related hospital admissions are mainly over 50 years old! Its a way of escaping from the fact they are the problem.

This is more aimed at the addicted and their health problems.

Now having said that I am not sure I agree with this idea, but I am sure that I have no strong feelings against it.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you, the idea that the government kicked was similar to prohibition. And we all know what a failure prohibition was. And, yes, it's all about RESPONSIBLE drinking, for all people. It must be learnt, not only for drinking, but for all aspects of life.