Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Can we be a nation of responsible drinkers?

This was the subject of an interesting Tory Party fringe event,organised by the New Statesman magazine that took place yesterday at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry.

A quick straw poll prior to the talk suggested that the packed audience were not sure either whether we could be or quite exactly what responsible drinking was.

Andrew Griffiths is the Tory MP for Burton and argued that government policy over the past few years has created a situation where our towns and cities are hotbeds of irresponsible drinking.

He points to the relaxation of the licensing laws and the cafe culture where in small towns people can still go out and get a drink at 5.45am,what sort of society is that?

Pubs,in the past,gave a duty of care to the community,but their viability in today’s climate encourages people to drink outside of that environment.

Taxation he argued, has encouraged the growth of stronger drinks and the growth of supermarkets and off sales and has allowed supermarkets to use alcohol as a loss leader.

“young people now see going out on a Friday and Saturday night as an excuse to drink to excess and not remember anything the following morning”

David Poley,representing the Portman Group argued that neither drinks retailers or producers have helped in the past as cultivating a responsible culture.

Times he says are changing with responsible drinking legislation covering advertising and sales.

“levels of drinking increased a lot during the 80’s and 90’s but since 2002,all the statistics are heading in the right direction most striking in the 16-24 age group”

Nick Southgate,from the School of life, a new enterprise offering good ideas for everyday living.believes that people drink simply because other people drink.

“We have very stratified drinking areas today.Certain outlets without mentioning names will attract a certain drinking culture.”

Andrew Langford who is chief executive of the Liver Trust,says we must talk about more radical ways of changing a society that has been harmed by alcohol.

He points out that advertising does still point at children mentioning the current campaign of WKD as something his eight year old laughs at.

“it is ridiculous that a soft drink can be more expensive than an alcoholic drink” citing Germany’s apple law.

“Will be ever have the label Alcohol kills on a bottle”

But do we have an idea of what responsible drinking is.We have the medical guidelines but if we sometimes exceed them is that irresponsible?

AL believes though that the chief medical office is flawed in that it misses the message of having a break which is as important as keeping within the limits.

As for the minimum pricing argument,once you start interfering and distorting the market,you open another set of problems including alcohol being drafted in from outside of the pricing zone.

There are no easy answers to this problem.

One argument that what put forward is that to whether all drugs should be legalised to reduce the impact of alcohol.

The solution to knife crime in the US after all was to give everyone a gun.

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