Right of Reply: Jean Cousins

The director of the Portman Group replies to Terence Blacker's article on binge drinking
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LOOK AROUND at the advertising that you see every day. The punchy text supporting glamorous photography and catchy music is not, I guarantee, likely to feature the words "sensible" or "responsible".

So how then, in a world where image is everything and lifestyle is all, can anybody effectively promote sensible drinking? Tony Blair's recent proclamation that "stability is sexy" is great news. If stability is sexy then sensible drinking surely now stands a chance too.

So what now? A multimillion-pound mass media campaign extolling the virtues of alcohol in moderation? That would hardly be responsible, sensible or financially possible!

Perhaps we should be finding new and attractive ways to tell people that you can drink moderately and still have fun? Perhaps we need to look at why binge drinking is a problem in the first place?

We should ask whether our children are told enough, early enough for them to make sensible choices. All too often it seems we react only when things go wrong. And it's not just a parental trait. The media relies too much on the easy hit of a story about the latest sozzled celebrity. In an editor's eyes it seems that stories about spiked drinks are sensible while stories about sensible drinking get spiked. Alcohol misuse develops an image as either the norm or a lifestyle requirement. Binge drinking is a problem partly because people believe that since under old- style guidelines their weekly limit was x units, these could be saved up for a Friday or Saturday night session. Result, sensible rapidly became insensible.

The Government now recommends daily benchmarks for adults of 2-3 units per day for women and 3-4 units per day for men. Sexy? Perhaps not. Sensible? Definitely!