Yet again, the powers that be seem to be totally blind to the problem of alcoholism. The latest brainwave is to increase the price of alcohol per unit to prevent binge-drinking. When will they ever learn? Do they not know that a true alcoholic would sooner go without food than alcohol, so increasing the price of alcohol will just reduce their available income for food and thus make them even more drunk. In the absence of food, the alcohol will do even more damage to their liver. As for teenagers and students, they will still get their vodka somehow before they go out for the weekend. Raising the price alone is about as useful as a hedgehog helping out in a balloon factory.
I shall say it loudly and maybe someone will actually hear.... IT IS NOT THE PRICE OF THE ALCOHOL THAT IS THE PROBLEM BUT ITS AVAILABILITY. SOME SUPERMARKETS ARE OPEN 24 HOURS ROUND THE CLOCK AS ARE PETROL STATIONS, SO ALCOHOL CAN BE PURCHASED 24 HOURS ROUND THE CLOCK. IF IT WEREN'T SO EASILY AVAILABLE, IT MIGHT JUST DETER PEOPLE FROM HAVING TO GO AND LOOK FOR IT.
Imagine someone suggesting just raising the price of drugs to stop people taking them. Imagine too heroin being on sale 24 hours round the clock in supermarkets, clubs and petrol stations. There'd be an outcry. Yet alcohol can cause just as much damage as heroin to your brain, your health, your life. I watched my husband dying a slow and horrible death, going from normal to dead within 6 years of his alcohol addiction starting. Unlike drugs, alcohol is legally available any time of the day or night and obtainable from a corner shop near you.
New Labour introduced 24-hour drinking to this country during their last term but they failed to appreciate that as a nation we cannot handle our booze and don't always know when enough is enough. I am not prohibitionist or anti-alcohol. I admit I love the occasional glass of wine or even on high days and holidays the occasional Baileys or vermouth, but when I think about it, why? It is not to quench my thirst because water or fruit juice would make a far better job of that. It has become the norm for people to drink wine with meals, but again, why? Does it seriously make a difference to the food? Did Mr Caveman suffer by not drinking wine with his food? Have we conned ourselves into thinking water with food would just not be acceptable? The trouble is, once it becomes the norm, one glass of wine or beer is not enough. I have even heard some people drink a glass of wine while they are cooking the food and of course go on to drink more with the meal. Before you know it, you have finished one or two bottles every day. Once your drinking escalates, it is not easy to stop or get out of the habit and all too soon you are addicted. With the addiction comes damage to liver and the brain, not to mention internal bleeding. So even these silent drinkers (ie not the official binge-drinkers we see on the streets) are aided in their drinking by alcohol being too readily available. In the supermarket? Then gather essentials.... milk, bread, fruit, meat. Oh and how about a bottle of wine? Getting petrol? That'll be twenty litres of unleaded and a bottle of whisky. Not only is the nation facing a problem of obesity (currently one in four are obese and soon will be one in three) but we are creating a whole new young generation of alcoholics with liver disease deaths rising faster than heart disease or cancer. Surely a sobering thought , not to mention the pressure on already stretched NHS resources..
Whilst the debate continues ( it may now seem that imposing a minimum price on a unit of alcoholic drinks is illegal under EU competition law), I would like to see the return of sensible licensing laws with pubs and clubs shutting, like they used to, at 11pm or midnight. Anyone drinking too much would be refused a drink by the landlord. I would like to see supermarkets and petrol stations banned from selling alcohol at all and I would welcome the return of off-licences open only for a few hours in the evening. I appreciate the counter-argument that it would make life difficult for the "sensible drinker", but isn't that a small price to pay to stop the drunken louts on our streets and to deter Aunty Mabel from succumbing to the daily bottle of gin behind her lounge curtains, certain of a slow and painful death if she continues? We managed with stringent laws like that in the past. Why not again?