It seems odd that our society is one where huge quantities of alcohol are regularly sold with impunity to people with many disastrous results, whilst a substance widely regarded by physicians and criminologists as responsible for virtually no harm is treated as a terrible social menace.
Alcohol Concern reports that about 4,000 people die each year from conditions directly attributable to alcohol, but cites evidence that puts the real figure much higher, at about 30,000 deaths. Police reports have suggested that as much as 70 per cent of offending, including almost all youth violence, is related to alcohol.
Many of the issues in this area deserve much more open and sober debate than they have hitherto received.
Dr GARY SLAPPER
Director, The Law Programme
The Open University