Simon Carr: A price rise isn't going to stop teenagers binge-drinking

Alcohol abuse is one of our most enduring national characteristics

Share
Related Topics

A minimum price for alcohol? The Chief Medical Officer is saying that a floor price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol should be imposed in order to make bingeing less attractive to young drinkers. The higher price will suppress demand, theory tells him. The Department of Health has evaluated the pricing structure and has issued the (surely bogus) figure that a minimum price of 50p a unit will suppress alcohol consumption by 7 per cent.

It's not entirely clear at the time of writing who gets the money, incidentally. It's assumed to be a tax. The fact that the money will be earmarked to help pay for the social costs of alcohol is helping to sell the idea. But of course, if the money goes into the Treasury it will go out again to the banks. No one's going to like that.

Maybe the money will simply go back into the industry? There would be some fairness in that: The pub chain Wetherspoon released figures last week showing how their 700 pubs made average profits of £50,000 and paid average taxes of £530,000. The Government looks at the industry and says, "One for you ... and 10 for me". I wouldn't want to be the minister who says, "one for you and 12 or 13 or 14 for me". That's a tax policy that will call a future generation to the barricades.

Excessive drinking isn't one of those things that can be easily dialled down. One of our most enduring national characteristics is alcohol abuse. It wasn't just the medieval wool booms that gave our small farmers time and money to sit around getting sloshed. We have been famous intoxicants from our earliest days.

In Wihtred's Code published in 695AD, his 6th Law specified a penalty for a priest too drunk to baptise a dying man. There were very few laws in those days, so it obviously happened often enough to warrant a specific mention.

Having said that, a Gin Lane mentality has been developing over recent years. In the days of my dear old dad, people drank quite differently, perhaps because they didn't have much money. A single measure of spirits and those mean little wine glasses – they were what we were used to. The British sitting room drinks cabinet had a half bottle of spirits in the back somewhere. It was hardly drinking at all.

And it must be said, the way my father administered wine through lunch was a masterclass. You always felt slightly under-supplied until about two thirds of the way through the meal when a switch was thrown in your head and a great contentment descended on you. What a role model he was.

But then it shows that role models don't always work because I turned into a guzzler. And God knows what example I've given my children. I only hope they haven't been keeping a publishable diary.

One of them left a family-sized, two-litre bottle of white cider by my computer one night and that seemed to me to be entirely new. For a couple of quid you get nearly four pints of 7 per cent alcohol. I drink too much myself to work out how many units that represents. But it really is dead drunk for a fiver, isn't it?

And is that going to be turned around by increasing the price of a beer four-pack from £2.99 to £3.40? Is that going to decrease alcohol consumption or raise the level of pocket-money? Is 50p here and there going to disperse the street corner groups of swearing 12-year-olds? Without of course wanting to stigmatise the little darlings, some of them really deserve to be thrown into the canal.

Things have changed a lot in the last generation, but one thing certainly hasn't. The eternal cry of teenagers is still: "There's nothing to do!" That is the really intractable problem: getting drunk may be many things, but it isn't boring for the drinker. And when temptation is matched by the opportunities afforded by street corners, co-operative retailers, youth-friendly dance clubs and 24-hour licensing, then they really are being drafted through a very specific set of gates.

The challenge of keeping teenagers busy doesn't get any easier, and raising the price of alcohol isn't going to do it. Let's be optimistic. It's possible that more attentive police may not just add to the problem. We have the laws – they should be enforced.

But this age group really need to be taken in hand – by their teachers, club leaders, drama directors, sports coaches, apprentice supervisors, weapons trainers ...

The drinkers will still drink but at least it won't be all they do.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The law is too hard on sexting teenagers

Memphis Barker
 

Obama must speak out – Americans are worried no one is listening to them

David Usborne
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game