Binge Drinking Thinking

A Young Drinker - Sasan Saidi

It was only a matter of time once the smokers had been dealt with. First came a shot across the bows from Peter Fahy, the chief constable of Cheshire, who proposed to rid our open spaces of underage drinkers by, er...raising the legal drinking age to 21.

Then there was a broadside aimed at the 'hazardous drinkers' of the middle classes idly swilling wine in the nation's leafy suburbs.

Now an alliance of health groups is lobbying for tax increases of between 10%-50% to stem the tide of alcohol abuse.

Drinks companies are now spending their advertising budgets on persuading us to consume less of their product and issuing helpful messages to promote responsible drinking. My favourite so far is 'drinking is only fun if you don't overdo it', which manages to combine corporate cuteness with a palpable untruth.

When I read that schoolchildren will be able to get half a GCSE in sensible drinking I realised that I hadn't turned over two pages at once. When did the government (for have no doubt, it is the heavy hand of government that is behind these initiatives) turn into my mum?

Since everyone else is having their two bob's worth I feel obliged to offer a few common sense observations from the comfort of the saloon bar.

  • Tempting as it may be to blame alcohol, lowlife teenagers are obnoxious yahoos even when they haven't had a drink.
  • While newspaper columnists may enjoy bashing the middle classes, even a 50% increase in tax is unlikely to trouble the affluent drinker as the duty content of a bottle of wine is fixed in relation to the price.
  • A 10% rise in tax will barely impact on anyone's consumption. By all means use the price mechanism. Wy not just target the chavvy brands that binge-drinkers prefer?
Finally and most importantly, lay off real ale.

Beer drinkers are already facing big price rises due to higher raw material costs. An more enlightened government might even encourage the consumption of cask-conditioned beer.

After all, when did you last see a brawl break out at a CAMRA festival?