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What is the real reason for rampant drinking?

20th March 2009

The real problem behind alcohol abuse lies not with pricing but availability, writes Melanie Phillips in The Daily Mail.

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Sir Liam Donaldson, the government's chief medical officer, proposes that alcohol should be sold with a minimum price in order to tackle alcohol abuse.

Alcohol has a huge effect on the NHS. The amount of hospital admissions due to alcohol have increased by over twofold over the last ten years.

The NHS is spending over £3 billion annually on treating alcohol-related illnesses. Sir Liam's plans mean no alcohol would be available for sale for under 50p per unit.

Would imposing minimum pricing structures actually solve the issue?  The scheme would mean beer prices would be doubled and wine would not be available for under £4.

The clearest opposing factor to these plans is that most moderate drinkers would be punished for the sake of treating the minority who abuse alcohol.

Although low-cost drinks have certainly made a contribution to binge-drinking, they are only one part of the puzzle.

The biggest factor in alcohol abuse is the government's "irresponsible deregulation of alcohol, which has turned it into an everyday commodity".

The drinks industry has targeted younger drinkers with alcopops. Figures show that one quarter of 11 to 15-year-olds drink alcohol every week.

Alcohol advertising has also reached out to female drinkers by opening trendy bars in place of male-targeted pubs.  As a result the amount of female drinkers who consume over 14 units of alcohol per week has increased since 1989 by 70%.

The extension of pub opening hours was meant to transform England into "a model European cafe society where people drink only as an accompaniment to eating".

However the increased availability of alcohol has meant longer drinking hours and more problems.

The real factor behind the increase in alcohol abuse is the government's lack of responsibility.

In a House of Lords debate in 2002, the LibDem peer Baroness Walmsley declared: 'The greater the number of formal restrictions on drinking, the more alcohol-related problems a society has."

The result of this lack of regulation has come "in the form of drunken violence and wrecked lives" we see everywhere in England.

 

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