Straight Talk - Don’t penalise the drinking majority for the sins of a few
There is usually nothing so calculated as to totally miss the mark than legislation inspired by one of the British public’s periodic fits of moral panic.
Thus this week’s Government move on setting a minimum price for a unit of alcohol is not to be welcomed.
Any law must meet certain criteria. Is it justified? Does it unfairly discriminate? Can it be enforced? Will it improve the situation being addressed.
In my opinion, this move does little to help the situation and simply puts in place a mechanistic response to what is clearly a social problem that needs social answers.
As anyone who actually frequents pubs in West Norfolk will tell you, drinking has actualy fallen in the past 10 years.
Certainly, many pubs and bars are struggling to survive. True, people are buying far more alcohol from supermarkets but that is not the real problem. Much of that will be bottles of wine consumed by middle-aged couples watching I’m A Celebrity. No doubt, we still drink far less in that respect than the French and probably much of Continental Europe.
No the problem, and anyone who has been out in any of our towns and cities on a Friday or Saturday night will agree, is the British habit of binge drinking.
That is largely, although certainly not exclusively, practised by the under-25s, and seems to be enjoyed as much by girls as it is by boys these days.
Cheap bottles of vodka from supermarkets are downed to start the evening off, before shot after shot is consumed as inebriation is turned into a speed contest at bars and clubs up and down the land.
All this would be reprehensible enough given the effect such over indulgence must have on some of those partaking, even at a young age when your body is able to cope with such abuse, but is made much worse by the unfortunate British character when in drink.
Aggressive is the only word for it. Despite our practice, we Brits can’t take our drink.
All dreadful and worthy of Government action. But hiking up the price of booze won’t work. Why? Because all that does is stop people who are sensible buying drink. It won’t stop the type of idiots who drink a bottle of White Lightning cider before going out for a night of 10 pints of snakebite plus chasers.
A Conservative-Liberal coalition would have had, one would think, a belief in certain free-market forces. Alcohol is either legal or it isn’t.
The unpleasant suggestion by this is that Victorian notion of the undeserving poor. Penalise them for their own good. If you are rich enough you can drink as much as you like. But if you have less money then you cannot be trusted and must be restrained.
That smacks of the action of a Government made up of old Etonians who believe the lower orders have to be constantly monitored.
Pricing does play a part in health policy. Cigarettes have been taxed to the hilt in an effort to discourage people from smoking. But there is a difference. All smoking is “bad”, in the the sense that a cigarette is inherently bad for you.
While the slogan “Guinness is good for you” certainly wouldn’t be allowed these days, moderate drinking will not kill you and to treat it in the same way is wrong.
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Weather for King's Lynn
Tuesday 21 May 2013
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