Monday, 26 March 2012
The Demon Drink
Also yesterday I received an email from a friend entitled 'We're binge drinkers'. Upon closer inspection she sent me this link which states: 'Binge Drinking - A brief time of excessive alcohol where a person has more than one drink.' She was right, we are binge drinkers because we usually have a couple of drinks during a evening. My habit is a sherry or two before my evening meal and hers is a brandy or two - completely destroyed by copious amounts of ginger ale - after her meal.
My friend insists her alcohol intake is strictly medicinal (she has heart problems). My only excuse is that I enjoy my evening tipple and refuse to allow anyone to dictate my drinking habits.
I don't support the Scottish Government's rush to legislate for minimum pricing; nor do I support David Cameron's U-turn on the subject. Lesley Riddoch, in the SoS, pedals the myth that we're a cheap booze culture. That's untrue. A can of Stella is the same price in Germany as it is here. Many wines are far cheaper on the continent than they are here. German schnapps is on a par with Scotch - it varies in price according to quality.
No, we don't have a cheap booze culture. We have the wrong attitude to booze. Too many people use it to escape the stressing of daily life instead of using it to enhance the quality of their lives. Most people drink in moderation, but no matter how high politicians push up prices, those who want drink will buy it. Will they buy less? For those who have a problem with alcohol I think not and neither will the minimum price affect those who consume a half bottle of vodka before hitting the clubs on a Friday or Saturday.
The benefactors of minimum pricing will be the retailers. In Scotland an attempt by the opposition to scupper the government's plans for a Tesco Tax was defeated earlier this month, so the tax on retailers which sell alcohol and tobacco will become law. However, with the other hand, the Scottish government could well be returning most of the £95m which the supermarkets and large shops will be forced to pay, although an accurate assessment of the profit will only be available once the unit price is set. The profits will also be shared with the alcohol producers, who, unsurprisingly, support minimum pricing.
Medics also support the idea, but will they see a reduction in the amount of alcohol related visits to A & Es or alcohol related deaths? Results of the recent legislation have made little difference to what is on offer on supermarket shelves.
Until we tackle public drunkenness with the legislation we've had for years I can't see minimum pricing making a difference. Scotland is the first country in Europe to be tackling our alcohol problem with minimum pricing, so the policy has not been tested. It is based on two university research projects, one English and one Canadian.
As someone remarked to me recently, "Why don't they just ban alcohol and tobacco if they cause so many problems?" The answer is money. Tobacco and alcohol consumption makes £billions for the Treasury. Surprisingly, the Scottish government hasn't suggested 'horror' labeling of alcohol in the same manner as is depicted on cigarette packets. Maybe the graphic below would shake us all into thinking twice about buying alcohol.
No? Thought not. What about a little McGonagall then?