Leading article: A cure for the British drinking disease

Share
Related Topics

Britain is sobering up. Last year saw the biggest one-year fall in alcohol consumption since 1948.

The 6 per cent decline is the fourth annual drop in five years. Does this suggest the nation's 60-year alcoholic binge is coming to an end? Unlikely. Health messages may have had some impact, but the most credible explanation for the decline is the recession. When people have less cash in their pockets they put less cash on the bar.

The clear long-term trend since the war has been that as alcohol gets cheaper (in real terms), consumption rises. Three times as much alcohol is drunk per head today as in 1948. Saloon-bar wisdom has it that people drink what they like, regardless of cost. That myth is nailed by yesterday's figures. Alcohol is sensitive to economic factors and even small adjustments can move consumption up or down. The drinks lobby protests that we in the UK drink less than the European average and that talk of an alcohol crisis is scaremongering. It is true we consume less in total than some other countries including Germany and Spain. But it is not how much we drink that is the problem. It is the way that we drink it.

Binge drinking is a peculiarly (though not exclusively) British disease. Even a small reduction in the number of binge drinkers could save the NHS millions – and mark a step towards reclaiming our town centres. The Scottish Executive and its health minister, Nicola Sturgeon, have proposed a 45p minimum price per unit of alcohol to end supermarket promotions where beer can cost less than water.

The idea was proposed by Sir Liam Donaldson, England's former chief medical officer, last year. But it was rejected by Gordon Brown because, he claimed, it would penalise moderate drinkers. Mr Brown's argument was nonsense. At 45p a unit it would cost a moderate drinker consuming the average six units weekly (three pints of ordinary bitter) less than 20p more a week than at present. Opposition parties in Scotland appear reluctant to back Ms Sturgeon's proposal. They should swallow their reservations. Minimum pricing is the only measure likely to curb this growing menace. And once it has proved its value, England should fall into line.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea