Talk about Newsnight


The price is right?

  • Newsnight
  • 10 Dec 07, 11:26 AM

offlicenceshelves_203152.jpgBritain’s love/hate relationship with alcohol has led to many headlines over the past 12 months. 24-hour licensing has been a reality in England and Wales for two years now, binge drinking stories are often in the news, and doctors have been alarmed by the rise in the number of cases of alcohol-related illnesses.

With 15 drinking days to go until Christmas, Newsnight is making ready for Boozenight. In Thursday’s programme, we’ll debate many of the issues that have been shaping our perception of the nation’s relationship with alcohol.

But we start the discussion today. Each day we’d like to address a different area of debate online…

We begin today with cost. Last week during a Commons debate there were calls for action against supermarkets selling alcohol below cost price.

But it’s not only supermarkets. Small shops are rife with discounts and multi-buy promotions as well, and it’s not unusual to find bottles of alcohol selling for less than a bottle of water.

So, should this practice be banned? Or should booze be cheap and accessible to all? Should there be a significant increase in how much alcohol is taxed?

Start the debate now.

You can also watch the first in our series of extracts from Rain In My Heart. Click here for details.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 12:41 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

It is tempting to focus on cost, but in many countries (e.g. France) alchohol is significantly cheaper and they appear not to have the same problems as we have here. This is a cultural issue.

The anti-social effects of binge drinking seem to be worst in towns with large numbers of "mega pubs/bars" where large groups of young drinkers congregate. These types of establishment didn't exist before and I wonder whether the local planners feel that they have done the right thing by allowing them.

  • 2.
  • At 12:42 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • mervyn williams wrote:

why are we paying for a police force.
if they done thier job there would not be a problem.when was the last time a landlord reported for selling beer to a DRUNK.this is an offence

  • 3.
  • At 12:43 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • M Webb wrote:

I believe we all have the right to cheap alcohol. It is the government's responsibility to educate the public with regard to risks to health and saftety but ultimately, it is up to each individual to police their own consumption.

Like any vice, smoking, drugs etc. safe use can only be the undertaking of the user. If someone chooses to ignore the evidence with regard to health then more fool them.

I am a senior manager for an internationally recognised travel company and I do not drink often. However, I feel that I should be able to purchase cheap alcohol as and when I decide to use it. Why should my pocket suffer because others cannot discipline themselves to moderation.

  • 4.
  • At 12:50 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Harry S Martin wrote:


It is a load of nonsense to suggest increasing the price of alcoholic drinks will cut down binge drinking.

Where is the evidence (if any) to clearly demonstrate that binge drinking has been reduced over the last few years when alcohol prices have continued to rise, even allowing for special offers.

Furthermore as a pensioner I find that the offers available enable me to enjoy a few drinks at home. Am I to be denied this pleasure?

It's ridiculous to penalise supermarkets/small shops for selling cut price alcohol. Why should it be sold at such a high price? If someone's going to be binge drinking, they won't care how much it costs anyway, as it's only a one-off! The amount of tax we have to pay is bad enough, so we should NOT try and encourage MORE taxation.

  • 6.
  • At 12:52 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Paul D wrote:

This is a cultural question, not a financial one. I left a quiet little Hampshire village - where being on the street after 10 on a Friday night was dangerous - for a capital city in Eastern Europe - Budapest - just over a year ago.

Bar prices are less than half the UK and supermarket prices a fraction. Yet you do not see bar brawls, the streets are safe to walk at any time and public drunkeness is rare.

Whatever it is that causes binge drinking and violent behaviour in the British culture, it certainly won't be fixed by a price hike.

There is no problem with alcohol being cheaper than (bottled) water in shops. I would also argue that alcohol in pubs is too expensive. The problem with a "drinking culture" is really a problem with the culture, not the drinking.

The fact that the UK is a country filled with morons who drink and urinate, fight, puke in the steets is not to be blame on the alcohol but by the fact we are a nation that lacks discipline.

  • 8.
  • At 12:57 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Ken Case wrote:

'Loss leaders' are a staple of store window marketing, and can take any form of merchandise which, if sold very cheaply, draws people into the store to shop for other items; casinos employ the $1.49 steak or ham and egg breadfasst, complete with coffee, to lure people through the gaming area which they must traverse on the way back out. How do you outlaw one loss leader without outlawing all of them? How do you legislate personal responsibility in those of legal drinking age? You can't. Eventually the hardcore drunks will kill themselves with booze, and cause no more social problems, like drug addicts would do if illegal drugs were decriminalized, excepting harm the drunks/addicts cause when under the influence; such harm should be rigourously prosecuted, of course.

  • 9.
  • At 12:58 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Candy wrote:

Due to 'Ladettes' like Zoe Ball (what has happened to her and her ilk? They had enough money and sense to stop their binge-drinking?) who made it acceptable for young women to lower themselves to be equal to young lads, then it's people like her who are to blame. How any woman, young or old, can enjoy looking like a complete idiot and make themselves ill intentionally, is totally beyond me. I don't think price or opening hours have anything to do with the problem; it's so-called 'celebrities' making it look 'fun' - hah! Hangbag overspend is next?!!


  • 10.
  • At 01:04 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • M Isles wrote:

I'm not sure that raising the price of alcohol will have that much effect... we already have extremely high prices (i.e. scotch is cheaper abroad than in Scotland) with much of that taken as tax by HMRC; if people are enticed to believe alcohol is the answer, they'll find the money to buy it!

Our 'binge-drinking' culture is, I think, much more complex than simply to do with price, and I really don't think this government's feeble attempts to make us more 'continental' with longer and longer drinking hours have helped at all.

The point you make about the price of alcohol being cheaper than water in some supermarkets is a valid one though - it's time the price of bottled water was cut!

  • 11.
  • At 01:05 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • mike c wrote:

I am also a moderate drinker, however would be very happy to pay higher taxes on alcohol purchases to avoid having to pay for the increased health costs of others from any increase in my income tax returns - at least then the drinker pays.

I think a more worrying trend is the lack of robust guidelines regarding the sponsorship of the sports industry, although I hope like tobacco, the predominant association between booze and sport will soon be a thing of the past.

  • 12.
  • At 01:06 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Nigel Bane wrote:

The responsibility, as always, rests with the individual. Parents must take responsibility for the way they've brought up their kids.It's too easy to blame "the government", the shop, the retail chain etc etc. If cheap drinks are available then we all have the right, if we so choose, to buy and consume these items but the responsibility is OURS. All that happens, is seems to me, is the government takes more and more control but leaves responsibilty with us.

  • 13.
  • At 01:08 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • michael foster wrote:

Very difficult one to know what to do.

I have lived in Paris now for 6 years but spend time travelling mainly in the USA and the UK.

Drinking age in France is 16 years of age I am told, in the USA 21 and the UK 18.
The differences I have observed,

In the UK the pubs and clubs are frequented by all age groups, the older people drink a lot but know their limitaions, with some exceptions. The Younger ones(under 30)go out with the sole intention of getting drunk and trying to outdrink friends and do not know their limitations. In the main they drink until they are about to fall.
Not many eating and drinking.
The norm is to get drunk then go for an Indian or Chinese.
People in the major cities, mainly younger ones, drunk roaming the streets.

USA bars and clubs, you do not see many young people (under 25)drinking over that age, people drink a lot.
Most eat when they drink, therefore the alcohol is consumed with food.
Nobody is roaming the streets drunk they climb into their cars and drive home.

Paris all age groups drink but mainly with food, the bars are full but the French take their time when drinking preferring to eat and chat while they do so and do not drink a lot.
In one hour they may consume one drink whilst the Brits will race to get 3 or 4 in.
There seems to be no pressure on people to drink up, if you want to take your time you do.
The occasional person walking the streets drunk, they have a drink then go home using the excellent transportation system.

I do not know the answer, most of the expats I know in Paris have adopted a half Brit half French system eating and drinking in moderation with the occasional relapse.

  • 14.
  • At 01:12 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

'Discipline', 'responsibility', fine (but medieval) weasel-words but useless in explanatory positions unless one's hell bent on pushing drugs (or sub-prime mortgages etc) and then putting all the consequences down to 'caveat emptor' and freedom of choice in a mythically equalitarian world where people can then be 'blamed' for their 'stupidity'. The fact is, people vary genetically in how easily they become addicted (or conned by salespersons), and the industry preys upon this vulnerability. Education has nothing to do with it. Make the stuff cheaper and more accessible and the results will be obvious in some geographical (gene-pool barriered) areas of the world.

'Self-Control', here, as elsewhere is not what it seems. Look up Howard Rachlin's work and the hyperbolic discounting function.

  • 15.
  • At 01:20 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • oulwan wrote:

I don't think price is the issue. I'm a smoker, and no matter how much tax is put on cigarettes, I know I won't quit until I decide to. Drink is the same. People who want it will drink it, no matter how much you fiddle with the price.

But is education the answer? I know ALL there is to know about the dangers of smoking (and suffer from some of the consequences already) but I'm still doing it.

One thing I do know from rearing my kids: make something dangerous or difficult for teenagers to get hold of, and they will want it ten times more. Ban it, and you can be sure they'll go chasing it like bloodhounds.

Sorry ... if I were a benevolent dictator, I'd still not know the right answer to this one.

  • 16.
  • At 01:25 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Debby Hornburg wrote:

I live in America, in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, all liquor stores are state owned, and there are no Sunday sales. The law prohibits drinking before age 21. Stiff penalties for driving while intoxicated. You know what? We still struggle with the same issues. What is the right answer? I think responsible parenting, most definately. I think a good media campaign, perhaps programs aimed at school age children, maybe. But I don't think that more laws, tougher laws, are going to change a thing.

Side note: My husband drinks not at all, being a Methodist preacher's son who believes that it is a sin. I myself don't believe this, but drink only socially, being raised in a family rife with heavy drinkers and the chaos that arises from that lifestyle. I cannot remember the last time that I was drunk. Between us we have 5 children. Only one is under 21, but the rest drink. As far as I can tell, they've settled down to be responsible, social drinkers as well.

  • 17.
  • At 01:29 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Will Harris wrote:

Water is more expensive than alcohol. This is what I think the show should focus on. There is a ridiculous situation with bottled water, where it is as expensive as Petrol and more expensive than alcohol. I'd be more up in arms about this personally!

  • 18.
  • At 01:37 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • George Shepherd wrote:

Once again we see the Government using a sledge hammer to crack a walnut.

I suggest that we deal with the offender, not the victim. Deal with these feral youngsters on the spot, being breathylised,on the spot fines and publically exposed via Local Press

  • 19.
  • At 01:37 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Stephen Ling wrote:

The way I see it is we Brits just can't handle alcohol.

Continental Europe has had access to cheap alcohol for years - they don't appear to have the same problems with it as we do.

I personally believe it has something to do with the British mentallity: It is a common sight in France to see nine and ten year old children enjoying a glass of wine with a meal and they grow up in this environment. They grow up and learn to respect alcohol for what it is: A pleasurable experience when treated with respect.

In Britain? Not a chance! Here children are always being told "you must be over eighteen before you can drink". What happens then is teenagers are temted by "the forbidden fruit" and throw as much of the stuff down their throats in the shortest possible time before they are caught doing it. With all the consequences that go with it.

This environment encourages the "binge" drinking culture. This seems to be the normal introduction to alcohol for most teenagers and, sadly, seems to endure in to adult life.

What happens here is we deny deny ourselves the pleasure of a the occasionl, pleasant, drink during the week and "save it up" and then see the weekend as the time to get "ratted". Hence, the problem.

Most continental europeans do not see alcohol as a means of total intoxication. For some reason we Brits do. Possibly for the reasons given.

  • 20.
  • At 01:40 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Graham Tattersall wrote:

Firstly ..... and not just relating to Britain's Booze Problem .... Supermarkets should NOT be allowed to sell ANYTHING below cost price.
Small Businesses cannot compete with this activity and it should be made ILLEGAL for Supermarkets to use their Financial Muscle to DESTROY FAIR TRADE. Ultimately it will be the British Public who suffer as the Big Supermarkets DESTROY all of the Independent Competition.

Secondly .....
When HMG introduced 24 hour licensing there was only ONE legitimate argument for them doing so. By allowing licensed premises to vary the times they chose to close, we had a chance to escape from the problems caused by having thousands of drunken revellers all being ejected onto the streets at the same time and the inevitable trouble this caused. But to have included Supermarkets in this legislation was NOTHING SHORT of RIDICULOUS, and showed just how much control and influence Supemarkets had over our Government!

There are no "Cheap Supermarkets" close to where I live, just a run-of-the-mill Off Licence, selling booze at regular prices ...... but that doesn't mean we don't suffer from the Booze Problems. Every night of the week groups of YOUNG teens congregate in the badly lit back streets and spring out to confront "adults" walking towards the Off Licence and try to persuade them to purchase Booze and Cigarettes for them. 90% of these "adults" will refuse, but the kids continue their efforts and every few minutes I will see an adult approach the kids and pass bottles of beer, cider and spirits to them. As one group of "supplied" kids disperses, another group will soon take their place and the whole cycle repeats itself.

As proven by the thousands of Brits who make the Daily "Booze Cruise" trips to the continent ..... our Booze is NOT cheap compared to elsewhere. For DECADES Britain has been home to some of THE MOST EXPENSIVE Alcohol on the Planet ...... but it was always Britain, and NOT all these other countries where alcohol has ALWAYS BEEN CHEAP .... that has had the Binge Drinking and Drunken Behaviour problems.

Shoving the price even higher will NOT solve the problem. All it will do is INCREASE Smuggling, INCREASE the Criminal Distribution and Selling of ILLICIT Booze, INCREASE Robberies from Licensed Premises and Liquor Stores, INCREASE Hi-Jacking of Trucks carrying Booze, and generally make another branch of CRIMINAL ACTIVITY even more ATTRACTIVE and LUCRATIVE.

"Increasing Prices" seems to be the "Universal and Only Solution" our UNIMAGINATIVE and INCOMPETENT Government has for solving almost every problem. They are TOO STUPID to behave LOGICALLY !

If "Booze Mad Britain" already has the DEAREST Booze in the World, where is the evidence so show that making it even more expensive will solve our problem ? Especially when all our European Cousins who have MUCH CHEAPER BOOZE and MUCH MORE RELAXED DRINKING LAWS, just DON'T HAVE OUR PROBLEM !

EDUCATION is the ONLY way to solve this problem.

For decades our Government kept on increasing the price of cigarettes in an attempt to get us to stop smoking ..... with ZERO effect. Only after they embarked upon EDUCATING us to the Health Problems that go hand in hand with smoking did cigarette consumption start to fall.

Graham Tattersall

  • 21.
  • At 01:45 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Graham A. Smith wrote:


Re the fuss over Britain's "love-hate" relationship with alcohol, I don't see why it's a problem only with the UK, e.g. what are the regulations and practices with other countries, especially in the rest of Europe? Is it the case that certain young people resident in the UK are receiving too high wages; is the price of alcoholic drinks too cheap; are the youngsters across the Channel earning less wages, or perhaps more civilised? If the behaviour of certain yobs who pose as football 'supporters' when overseas is anything to go by, then many youngsters in the UK must appear as the scum of the Earth to fellow Europeans. I have worked abroad in the past, and I was impressed by how much more mature the younger people were mentally, but nowadays I think twice (or more) before venturing out in our "great" country before contemplating a visit to my local, for fear of the consequences, and the fact there are more than a few 'druggies' around exacerbates the situation.

  • 22.
  • At 01:50 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Duncan wrote:

Alcohol is already far more expensive in Britain than in many other countries, for instance in France, where one can buy pretty good wines for a couple of Euros in the typical supermarket. Surely this must indicate that cost has little to do with people drinking too much in Britain.

And surely there is be a fundamental difference between the use of alcohol as a socially sanctioned form of drug-taking enabling relaxation, socialising and the increased enjoyment of food, and drinking as a means to become intoxicated enough to overcome inhibitions and thus social fears and anxieties.

  • 23.
  • At 01:59 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Paula Varley wrote:

I've never thought that paying more for things like booze or petrol or cigarettes would do anything at all to limit their use. As paying ludicrously high levels of tax on petrol will never stop global warming, so it follows that applying the same flawed principle to the cost of alcohol will achieve little. Government coffers bulge, but there is no obvious correlation to the worthy cause on whose behalf the costs are hiked.
I do think bottled water is a ridiculous price, and there may be a scandal linked to that!

If you wade back through history you will find depressing references to the Anglo Saxon tendency to over drink. Medieval British armies were particularly notable. It looks like a long cultural tradition.

Alcohol and tobacco are addictive. Until addicts acknowledge they have a problem, there can be little prospect of improvement. I doubt that parenting classes are the answer, as one US correspondent seems to hint here. Many parents are too busy handing on the binge tradition, of an evening.

  • 24.
  • At 02:13 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Barry Reed wrote:

The worse thing that could happen was to allow 24hr drinking.
Now instead of the police being able to prepare for the 11'O clock throwing out time, the violence can happen at any time, possibly when the police have less staff on shift!
In France most wine is drunk with a meal and slowly, and I have seen no violence through heavy drinking, here it seems rife!

  • 25.
  • At 02:25 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • SADIKI Chimanuka wrote:

Iam SADIKI Chimanuka,from kinshasa DRC.

Drink is good but we have to know in what time can we drink it, because in my DRC country we can't drink because we have to drink. it is the contrarie in europe.somewhere drink is very bad for our health, we need to know the situation of ours health also, not drink in desorder. a lot of people are sufring because of drink.

My advice is to wish those who drinks a lot( enjoy your drinks, but there is a consequences in the future, they will start theirs life from scratch )

thanks you very much

  • 26.
  • At 02:37 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Andrew Moore wrote:

Drink is definitely a cultural problem. In Ireland we do not have 24 hour opening and drink related social problems have been on the increase. For example, nearly 25% of accident and emergency admissions are alcohol related.

The key question is how o we deal with this cultural problem. making drink is not the solution, as for example a pint in Dublin is one of the most expensive of any European city. Perhaps it is time that young people learned to drink at home and not from their piers.

  • 27.
  • At 02:41 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • John A Barrett wrote:

I stopped drinking nearly 19 years ago, but still enjoy going to the Pub to chat and I drink a couple of pints of soft drink, but I have to pay £2-20 per pint and for not much more I could drink Lager.
It would be good if soft drinks were cheaper and that would encourage non-drinkers to go to the pub more.

  • 28.
  • At 03:31 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Louise wrote:

Maybe we need to be thinking more about why people drink and deal with the real problems. In the case of young people, trying to get on the housing ladder is a nightmare (my sister and I are both in our early 20s and easrning over £20,000 a year each, but because of house prices in the South East can't afford a mortgage), competition for decent jobs post-uni is huge and then there's the pressure from the media to have "been there done that" when it comes to pretty much everything. I know it looks like being in your twenties is one big laugh, but the knowledge that I'm in a really good job working 14 hour days at times and yet I can't afford a house is horrible. Going out at the weekend is the only chance a lot of us have to chill out a bit, even though we're well aware it's not ideal.

As for others, I used to be a barmaid and from hearing people talk at the bar, drinking is the one escape for people desperately trying to make ends meet whilst competing with under-inflation pay rises, over-inflation rises in petrol prices and ridiculous mortgage repayments, for a start.

Finally, when you consider it now costs almost £10 for a cinema ticket or up to £20 to go to the theatre outside of London, what else are people supposed to do but go to the pub?!

  • 29.
  • At 03:33 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

Boozenight !!! Excellent !!!

Here are some ideas for the show, to help you live up to the 'tabloid tales' this will no doubt engender, and to maintain your 'liberal stereotype' with the readers of the Sun and Daily Mail..

Jeremy - Live Webcam from the Garrick with him drinking tawny port and pipe and slippers in full view.

Kirsty - Live coverage from a Scottish country pub, as she tries to work her way down a dram of 237 different malt whiskies...

Gavin - At a CAMRA endorsed 'brew your own' real ale pub, complete with an interview with several bearded men comparing the relative merits of Old Freckled Ken and Bishop's Finger..
[other real ales are available]

Steven Smith - Documentary film at the old Fleet Street to try and guess how the old watering holes are bearing up in a 'post-Wapping' world.
[Couldn't be done live as poor Smithy is now recovering from this risky and dangerous mission which required its very own health & safety assessment].

Stephanie Flanders - "Tonight I'll be reporting on how things are so bad in the economy that when I popped into my favourite 'trendy wine bar' I was very cross to see that it had been turned into a bank, to try and gain some deposits to fund mortgages which could no longer be backed with funds from the money markets - so I'm off down the off-licence as I'll just have to drink back at home instead !"

Paul Mason - Live link to a snug in a pub 'somewhere in Ireland' for a piece of 'business news' about how Guinness is struggling now that old working class habits are dying as the Celtic tiger switches to lager and a glass of ice with a 'cider top'..

And for 'one night only' Martha Kearney pops in as the only one compos mentis enough to review the papers, with her dash of sarcasm, whose headlines are full of disparaging comments about what the licence fee is being used for...[hic]

  • 30.
  • At 03:35 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • liz wrote:

My family were in the hotel and catering industry from 1960 to 1996. During that time I have watched the decline in standards of everything, none more so than the status and integrity of people who have been granted the right to sell alcohol. Once upon a time if one got a driving conviction you lost your licence, now anything goes. Yes there were dodgy pubs but everyone including the police knew and usually the landlord ran a well ordered ship.
It began when supermarkets were allowed to sell booze. Then it was aggravated when the govenrment decided to wage war on the breweries.
Alcohol can and does ruin many lives and the good old fashioned pub landlord knew how to run a decent house, if he did not, he lost, not only his business, but his home.

  • 31.
  • At 03:44 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Ronald Whiteley wrote:

Let's not forget that our present Prime Minister in his last budget as Chancellor was bragging about being able to not tax the strongest of drink i.e. Spirits (Whisky?) in ten of his eleven budgets. It is now cheaper to consume strong drink than beer or wine.

  • 32.
  • At 03:58 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Ann Voysey wrote:

I have just taken advantage of the special offer on gin and bought a couple of bottles which now I've got I shall no doubt drink. Had it been sold all year round at a decent price, I wouldn't have had to bulk buy and not having it in the house, would not have drunk so much. So counterintuitively, the cheaper the alcohol, the less some of us will drink.

  • 33.
  • At 04:31 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • John McAndrew wrote:

Don't increase tax on alcohol, start punitively taxing pubs.

If there is a regular police presence outside one of these "fill 'em up send 'em home legless" outfits then tax the pub £100k per annum. In turn the brewery will pass it onto the customer and the price of alcohol will go up. Let them pay for their excess.

Grade pubs for the purposes of taxation by volume of sales, by throughput, by food offered, by public order offences etc.

The small independently owned publican who provides both for the individual and the community should be encouraged.

What makes us British?

Jack Straw started this debate and, in addition to the all day breakfast, cheap alcohol must remain one of the keystones.

Fact, people die of illness, if they didn't, they wouldn't die.

In my opinion doctors can't be bothered treating smokers, drinkers, the obese, anyone they decide they don't like however doctors are paid to diagnose and recommend treatments, the old myth that prevention is better than cure fails to take into account the pension crisis this country faces.

The age for smoking and drinking in the UK must now be reduced to 15, GUM clinics installed in every secondry school and air conditioning installed in pubs and clubs to protect workers.

The smoking bans in public and raising the smoking age to 18 will only result in even higher teenage pregnancy rates.

This is the word of God and (if you obtain a copy of Piece by Piece, Tori Amos' autobiography) I am fully prepared to confirm this fact publicly or/and under oath.


From birth: gratification, pleasure, comfort, even reward, is by mouth. Infants soon pick up on "I need a drink" or (even today) "I need a cigarette" - they unconsciously ACCEPT that we alter mood by oral intake. (Later they will learn of needle and nose, but that does not dilute my point.)
The "habit" of grown-ups (with luck) may be under control, but the perception of their offspring is of an OK behaviour - a "permission" for the future, that might lead anywhere.
Against this cultural "background hum", to try to address the most vulnerable and hurt, who desperately need release from their pain, misery and demons, will always be an uphill struggle; to presume to punish them, a questionable iniquity.
Until "respectable" society as a whole, admits its acceptance of its addictive nature - be it alcohol, tobacco, coffee, chocolate or just food - the tip-over into "unacceptable addiction" will be easy and commonplace. This is the elephant in the "what can we (good people) do about THEIR drug problem" room.
The root situation is not drugs (including alcohol), it is the neediness of people FOR drugs, born of lifelong immaturity and consequent social malfunction. This infant-need also emerges as desperation for power found in politicians etc, the current pornography/sexual orgy; even retail therapy. Culturally, we are all in this together, but having watched, on TV, smokers (faced with the ban) and drinkers (faced with new limits) squirm, wriggle and obfuscate, I doubt a revolution is in the offing. We must remember to see to the elephant’s needs; it will be around for quite a while.

I understand it is de rigueur for AA members to declare themselves alcoholics. When will any MP or magistrate stand up in their hallowed halls and declare: “I am a user”, before pronouncing on the control, or fault, of others?

The culture of any country is partly psychological. Britain is in bad need of therapy, but the lever-pullers are in denial. Never was Havel’s coinage “living inside the lie” more apt.

  • 36.
  • At 05:04 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • mixin' it wrote wrote:

Post 29
Bedd Gelert is so funny

  • 37.
  • At 05:24 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • mixin' it wrote wrote:

Do you think Bedd Gellert could be Gavin Esler?

I phoned up NN once (I've lost the phone number) I asked if Paxman was on - someone said "It's Gavin Esler. Is that alright?"
So I said yeah. I thought I better watch it.

Anyway it was really interesting, it was about America, but you know what got me?

I thought he was just a presenter, but at the end of the programme he shuffled the papers with his fingers and a thought WOW, he's wrote this. I was dead impressed!

I don,t think Jeremy writes anything he 'DEBATES'. I suppose it's all question of style

  • 38.
  • At 05:24 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • morteee wrote:

"why are we paying for a police force.
if they done thier job there would not be a problem.when was the last time a landlord reported for selling beer to a DRUNK.this is an offence"

more importantly when was a MINOR last prosecuted for BUYING beer? or when was someone else prosecuted for buying a minor for buying beer? Those are also offenses!

  • 39.
  • At 05:31 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Siobhan wrote:

Alcohol abuse, binge drinking and its associated anti-social behaviour are indeed cultural issues rather than legislative ones.

People have correctly pointed out that alcohol is far cheaper in other European countries which do not have a corresponding anti-social drinking problem.

Cultural change is notoriously difficult to bring about, as it involves changing values which people have internalised very strongly - values which guide their behaviour, and values which guide the end results that they wish to see from their behaviour.

So long as we see admiration or acceptance of people getting extremely drunk, and do not appreciate alcoholic drinks for their taste, smell, and promotion of conviviality, there is probably little hope of change regardless of the price of alcohol in supermarkets!

Barrie (35),

Right On!

Time to re-visit Brave New World? Particularly the author's Preface/Foreword to later editions....

And now for a glass of Liffey Water..
Cheers, Bedd!


Punative taxation on alchol has not solved the problem, simply created the cross-channel hop to load up with cheaper French beer and wine (with huge amounts permitted per person because of EU pressure).

Punative taxation on petrol will now 'fuel' that loss of British revenue even further as we have the additional incentive for tax-dodging across the channel more frequently.

  • 42.
  • At 06:26 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Denzil wrote:

I don't see why increasing tax on alcohol will be a silver bullet solution to this 'problem', prices are already more expensive than other countries and people already go on booze cruises to France where alcohol is cheaper. Maybe the Labour party thinks that only rich people should be allowed to get drunk?

All this media fuss over alcohol is extremely hypocritical. One minute the likes of Richard and Judy are proudly declaring how they can't remember a single thing from the 1960's because they were too sozzled and the next minute they saying that our town centres are now 'no-go areas' because of people getting sozzled. But were British town centres ever family friendly places at night 20 years ago? Of course not, back then you didn't have all the female friendly bars that you have now, so actually, town centres nowadays are much more friendly for the female binge drinker than they used to be. Nobody ever talks about all the urban regeneration that drinking culture has helped to pay for. Before all these new bars opened up, it was just empty warehouses and drug addict wastelands. Now there is a thriving night time economy. So I would say the price of alcohol is spot on and doing is wonders for the economy.

Binge drinkers are good consumers because they are excessive consumers. Binge drinking is just one part of the excessive consumption culture that we have in modern Britain. Excessive consumption of food has lead to obesity, excessive consumption of credit has lead to record amounts of debt, excessive consumption of air travel / petrol has lead to global warming, excessive consumption of immigrants has lead to "social cohesion sensitivity" etc. Excessive consumption is GOOD FOR THE ECONOMY. So let's not be so hasty to criticise binge drinkers, indeed the perfect consumer would be an obese binge drinker, who is massively in debt, drives many miles to work in a large car and pays a traffic congestion charge. Do you know anyone like that?

I hope the next topic will be on the media's hypocritical stance on alcohol and all the conflicting messages they send out.

  • 43.
  • At 06:39 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • UKcerberus wrote:

The standard reaction for any UK government is to increase prices. Ripoff Britain is alive and well and living at Westminster.
Why do we as a nation put up with these people?

  • 44.
  • At 06:59 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Chris Nation wrote:

There's some pretty weird stuff amongst these comments. It's the drink, y'see. Brings out the demon in folks.

Seriously [sort of], my experience of the attitude to alcohol of most other countries is that to be seen to be the worse for drink is a disgrace and considerable humiliation.

This is not the case in Britain. Rather the opposite. From the 'gentleman's club' soak ["Two bottles of claret at lunch, old boy? Didn't you have any help?" "Oh, yes. I had the invaluable assistance of a bottle of Madeira!"] to the laddish "Yeah. Wicked night. Got totally ripped."

If an antisocial activity is not regarded universally as a disgrace [NOT as a sin. That only makes it exiting], it will continue ad nauseam [literally]

Wish I had shares in Concha y Toro!

  • 45.
  • At 07:20 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Brian keith wrote:

The sweet alcopops should not be sold in the UK.

  • 46.
  • At 07:21 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Ann Robinson wrote:

Everyone knows binge drinkers start off "getting leathered" at home because it's cheaper than spending the whole night in a club paying club prices for drinks. They've already had a whole night's consumption before the taxi arrives at 10.30 pm to take them to their destination and only require "topping up" usually from inside their handbags, with just a coke bought at the bar. They should be refused service if clearly falling about drunk.

  • 47.
  • At 07:35 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • BigJeeze wrote:

Again I will say it - It is not the prixce but the availability of alcohol that is the problem. Rexcognising this and the fact that there is no public appetite for reducing or restricting of alcohol why not just reduce the alcohol content in all beverages. That way everyone can drink there is no lss f revenue everybody in the trade keeps their jobs but the danger is reduced.

  • 48.
  • At 07:55 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Liz wrote:

I'm (I hope) far from of a fogeyish disposition*, but it seems to me this article focuses on the treating the symptoms (tinkering with the price of alcohol) but ignores the root issue: consequences, or lack of. Do something genuinely harmful (to others, or their property) while drunk, and it seems penalties are minimal--or at least, not well publicised. This is not a problem confined to alcohol-related offences, of course.

*Yes, I have had a few drunken episodes, some of which I'd never want to repeat, and do still on occasion get drunk to the point of silliness. Point is, I've never damaged anything or anyone else--and should I ever do so, it'd be a strict limit for me thereafter.

PS: Those making comparisons with other parts of Europe (we'll leave the Scandinavians out for now--they get as drunk as we do) should not mistake lack of overt drunkenness for moderate consumption. Yes, France etc may not have the post-pub fighting: but their intake is higher and cirrhosis rates exceed ours.

  • 49.
  • At 08:52 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • James wrote:

I get up in the morning, head off to a dead end job, down packed roads because of haphazard, crummy public transport that make it still take four times longer to use than sitting in a traffic jam. I bust my nut in the public sector, trying to tell myself that getting done over by a government that doesn't value us is going to be paid back by the "huge" pension I'm going to get in twenty years time, so I can sit in more traffic jams on the way home to a relationship thats not withstanding the problems of modern life, one of us working just to afford childcare. Tax takes 70% of the cost of my fuel and about the same of the cost of my bottle of wine (I don't know I didn't bother looking it up.) But I do know that like most of my workmates the chance to sit back and have a couple of glasses of wine at the end of the day makes things bearable.
How do you fix the pre-occupation with booze? Fix society. Fix the problems that mean you work three hours for your kids, two hours for you and five for Mr Darling. Fix the fact that your pushed into buying a new TV so that the Government can make a few quid flogging digital channels. Give the kids growing up, brighter and more intellegent than we were when we were their age, something to look forward to instead of more of the same. Most people I know look haggard all the time, the stresses and strains of life bring them down and thats reflected.
Fix society and you fix this problem.

  • 50.
  • At 10:14 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

james - how right you are - but it doesn't have to be this way. please don't wait for the government to fix it - they like it that way is at keeps people docile.

Read 'How to be free' by Tom Hodgkinson - it could change your life..

  • 51.
  • At 12:34 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Nigel Robinson wrote:

I don't drink alcohol at all but reserve the right of those who want to to drink. however some have said there is no correlation between the price of alcohol and consumption. The little bit of research I have done seems to point conclusively to the opposite. consumption over the period 1960 - 2000 was a mirror image of the index linked price. Whilst I hear and respect the guy who says why should he pay a high price because of those who abuse alcohol I can also say why should I pay into the national health service to deal with the costs caused by alcohol abuse

  • 52.
  • At 01:11 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Len King wrote:

Here in Oz, I suspect our alcohol taxes are lower than in the UK, because our wine prices are significantly lower than yours. Having said that, there is an ongoing policy here by public welfare groups to increase taxes to, among other things, make drinking more expensive for the indigenous people, who are 2% of the population. Alcohol taxes are regressive in any culture, the boats rise disproportinately on the same tide. Those who can afford it will continue to consume alcohol no matter how highly its taxed. So do governments tax it to within an inch of its life until only the middle classes upward will continue to purchase? The poorer end of town is continuously under legislative attack here: no smoking in pubs and clubs; you can't drive more than 5km without being random breath-tested, when customers are in short supply the police chase you down the road with lights flashing; no more drinking on the footpath outside the pub; no drinking in public parks (and that includes a glass of wine at a family picnic). I realise we have a way to go before political correctness reaches its zenith, but I hope to live another 10 years to participate in a revolution against these wowsers.

  • 53.
  • At 01:35 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Ali wrote:

I believe statistics show that more and more people drink at home. A group of friends is more likely to buy "cheap" booze and drink it at home. Personally, for me the major factor that makes me drink at home is the cost. Pub drinks are just too expensive these days.

Also, the government is telling us that since the introduction of 24 hour licensing, the town centres are a better place. Although, I think the shift in the drinking culture is more to do with increased awareness than the new licensing law. If we are really becoming more sensible drinkers, maybe the government should take notice and not increase the tax on alcohol.

  • 54.
  • At 02:53 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Tony wrote:

I believe it is still legal to go into a pub when you are 14 and drink soft drinks only. People of 14 have nowhere to go really and they would be better off meeting in a pub instead of what we see, i.e., buying cheap cider and alcopops at the newsagents and sitting out at the back of local schools to get drunk and smoking cannabis. 14 year olds are treated like babies and no wonder they grow up so that at 18 onwards they are still so immature that loutish behaviour comes easily.

Giving people responsibility to think and do things for themselves instead of having a complete nanny state might improve things.

The price of the alcohol is irrelevant and will still be bought, even if raised; it's just another government ploy to raise the cost to get the tax back that smoker's are not now paying. It is far too expensive in pubs and should be reduced in cost, not raised. This would then stop people drinking at home so much and get them back to the pub where they are likely to be more sociable and drink less.

Look at Spain where the families all go together to the bars to meet. The government have actually dismantled a section of life in Britain where many people met at the pubs and working mens clubs, but due to the immense amount of tax a lot of the working mens clubs have closed down and the pubs make such a small profit on beer that a lot of pubs have closed as well. We are nearly now up to paying nearly 50% in tax overall, when they are all added together.

In cities there are far too many places staying open until 2 and 3 in the morning now, some even later. The sociability angle seems to have given way to the 'drink as much as you can' way of life.

The problems started when the laws allowed pubs to open after 10.30pm and to allow virtually all newsagents to sell alcohol. We all knew what alcopops were going to do, ie., lull the youth into a false sense of security to think that it is ok to drink numerous bottles. A money maker for the producer and a tax maker for the government and the youth are the only ones being 'used'.

The problems are being caused by a large number of things and to raise the taxes etc, just to make it more expensive will do absolutely nothing.

As usual, a few so called stupid 'experts' who actually know nothing, as they never go out and see life, will no doubt be making the decisions on what to do, even though the general public already know the answers.

We, the people, already know what they will decide as it is a foregone conclusion; put the age up to 21 and raise taxes! Another bad decision.

  • 55.
  • At 06:14 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Sinister wrote:

I feel no need to say a word on this issue
Tom...Above me here....Spoke my thoughts loud and clear. I agree with Tom on this issue 100%

  • 56.
  • At 08:59 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • jimadore wrote:

The government allows 24 hour drinking in pubs and clubs? super Casinos? on line gamberling 24 hours a day ? now want to tax cheap booze from supermarkets e.t.c.? because some people have a drink probelm????? scandalous maybe the pubs ? full price and tax ,are not takeing enought cash???? market forces' at work????

  • 57.
  • At 09:43 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Piers Catton wrote:

At the moment like many other people I have a terrible cold and feel pretty bad. I was in Morrisons the other day trying to stock up on medication and had in my basket a packet of anadin, a packet of paracetamol plus, and a some soluble lemsip. When I got to the checkout the girl said to me "Sorry Sir I can only sell you 2 out of those 3 items" I presume this is because they are "drugs" but they were off the shelf not from the pharmacy. Behind me in the que was a guy loading over 6 bottles of whisky, 2 gin, 2 vodka and numerous cans of beer and bottles of wine onto the conveyor belt. This says it all really whilst I assumed his purchase was for Xmas or a party the checkout girl under store instructions assumed I was going to down the medication in one go and kill myself. Despite obviously being ill if had I wanted to do this I could have gone to numerous chemists that day and got a lot more ! This all goes to show the differing attitudes to things adn how putting up the price of alchohol will do nothing !

  • 58.
  • At 09:44 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • John Salkeld wrote:

Ban it or tax it seems to be the only answer this pathetic excuse for a government has.

We can't address the issue but at least we can raise revenue from it.

  • 59.
  • At 09:50 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Piers Catton wrote:

At the moment like many other people I have a terrible cold and feel pretty bad. I was in Morrisons the other day trying to stock up on medication and had in my basket a packet of anadin, a packet of paracetamol plus, and a some soluble lemsip. When I got to the checkout the girl said to me "Sorry Sir I can only sell you 2 out of those 3 items" I presume this is because they are "drugs" but they were off the shelf not from the pharmacy. Behind me in the que was a guy loading over 6 bottles of whicky, 2 gin, 2 vodka and numerous cans of beer and bottles of wine onto the conveyor belt. This says it all really whilst I assumed his purchase was for Xmas or a party the checkout girl under store instructions assumed I was going to down the medication in one go and kill myself. Despite obviously being ill if had I wanted to do this I could have gone to numerous chemists that day and got a lot more ! This all goes to show the differing attitudes to things adn how putting up the price of alchohol will do nothing !

  • 60.
  • At 10:57 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • John Doe wrote:

Cheap booze does not cause binge drinking. All expensive alcohol does is make binge drinkers poorer. Unaffordable alcohol just creates a black market. It is these antidiscipline new age idiots creating a weak willed and minded generation coupled with lack of prospects and a generally crap life in this NuLabour Eutopia means binge drinkers turn to drink to escape this hell that is Labour Britain. I try and escape but watching TV or reading not something that will impair my ability to take action against this horrific government and it 1984 agenda. Sorry Gord you wont be O'Brien ever while I still live. 2+2 = 4 no matter how much labour tries to make it 5

  • 61.
  • At 03:49 PM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Father Andrew Gentry wrote:

In the US attempts at restricting the sale of alchohol to certain hours and or days, not to mention, in some states to local government ran stores, has had no real effect on drinking habits.It is a matter of education and the novel idea of taking responsibility for one's own actions.For some odd reason the over consumption of alchohol is considered a rite of passage and the fact that one may vomit thier insides out is considered "cool"! Unless you get the marketeers to push for responsible drinking and make that "cool" you are fighting a loosing battle. Good luck from an american brit!

  • 62.
  • At 05:41 PM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • John Coombes wrote:

It is down to the government to resolve the problem - but not in the way you might be thinking.
If we educate children about alcohol from a young age then they can go to it in an informed manner and suffer the consequences of high taxation and fines for alcohol related offenses of at least four times there current level.
With education comes informed responsibility and sever consequences for abuse, which would no longer be done in the ignorance of it's mind altering qualities and health hazards.
However the government is making too much money from tax and fines - where does it's true responsibilities lay?!

  • 63.
  • At 11:01 PM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Chris Nation wrote:

Newsnight will debate. MPs in the house will spout. The medics will wag their fingers. Cranks and the religiously teetotal will pontificate or rave. None of it will alter anything one particle.

The British and the Irish are deeply culturally inclined to be boozers. Other northern European societies are, too - the Finns, the Germans, the Russians [and how!]. An inclination so deep is not modified by tweaking the marginal aspects of the culture - a few percent increase on the price of alcohol or a year or two added to the legal limit to consume it, for example.

Consider this: it is criminal but still culturally acceptable for certain societies to kill people in the name of their concept of honour. Sicilian and some Asian societies have this problem embedded in their culture but we find this revolting and unthinkable, so we don't do it. When it happens in Britain, among a group whose culture condones it, we are disgusted and deliver the harshest possible penalty.

Now, getting persistently tanked is not in the same league as honour killing but it shares the same sort cultural acceptance in our society. Only when the attitude to drunkenness changes to a level of general disapproval that makes people so ashamed of themselves to be so, will anything change. And because, unlike drunk driving, the results are relatively inconsequential across the population, this change in attitude will never happen.

  • 64.
  • At 12:06 AM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • edith crowther wrote:

Post 28 (Louise) and 49 (James) are right. In Britain we have used drink since the Industrial Revolution in the spectacular auto-destruct style of the Amerindians, the Aborigines, the Maori, black South Africans, and other Liquor Slaves. Nowadays in Britain that usage has expanded suddenly and noticeably, ballooning out from the people no-one sees in our native reservations (i.e. council estates and back alley tenements) and into our high streets and campuses, even into our boardrooms.

This is because landlessness, bad enough since the Enclosures, has gone absolutely mad since the 1960s. Landless does not only mean propertyless - it means having no wild places nearby in which to roam free in safety and at the same time having no sense of belonging or of being rooted in a territory (some of it wild) amongst people with the same traditions and values.

One of the best accounts of why dispossessed natives go psycho like polar bears in cages, is the famous Maori/Pakeha film "Once Were Warriors". It is fictional, from a Maori novel - but tells the truth. It depicts truly brutal levels of alcoholism. It also offers a solution, initiated by desperate women who suddenly stop imitating their lost men (after a tragedy): go back in time, celebrate your ancestors, remember their ways, and if the new ways don't measure up - chuck the new ways. Then you won't have to be a Liquor Slave, because you won't be any other kind of slave.

We would have to go back further than the Maori - but not much further. It is irrelevant that it was some of us who dispossessed them - most of us stayed here, and suffered the consequences. It is not only colonial invasion that dispossesses - indeed colonial invasion is relatively easy to throw off. Sometimes it is simply the "devouring trades of usury", and the "inclosure of pasture" (Francis Bacon, Of Seditions and Troubles, 1597), left unchecked for centuries and now terminal.

  • 65.
  • At 12:22 PM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • Baz wrote:

So successive governments create a binge-drinking culture by their blinkered dogmatic policies, destroying hope and encouraging celebrity, then when we as a country are suffering because of their errors, all they and similarly dogmatic thinkers can come up with is to tax us their poor victims.


happy burthday to mee, etc.....

  • 67.
  • At 01:17 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Martin Hughes wrote:

The idea that alcohol in this country is cheap is a nonsense.

The average price for a pint of beer in a pub, club or bar is well over £3, and have we seen a decrease in anti-social behaviour? No, and if anything we've seen an increase!

Drinking at home is significantly cheaper, but apart from the health problems faced by the individual, such drinking does not have the same anti-social behaviour attached to it.

  • 68.
  • At 02:57 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • alistair wrote:

it is odd that soft drinks aren't cheaper because there is no tax (except VAT) to pay on them. a pint of shandy will cost the same as a pint of beer despite the fact that half of the drink is free of excise tax

  • 69.
  • At 04:05 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Kate MacDonald wrote:

The person who wrote that drinking at home 'does not have the same anti-social behaviour attached to it' has obviously never lived with an alcoholic, or watched someone they love kill themselves with alcohol. Making alcohol more expensive is not going to stop anyone that is already addicted, but it would prevent more youngsters becoming trapped by the misery.

Has raising the cost of fuel, cut down on the amount of traffic?
I repeat, it's societal.

The Big Four's ONLY interest is in profit - it is NOT TRUE that they don't want to fuel the problem - THE TRUTH IS 'THEY DO NOT GIVE DAMN!'

  • 72.
  • At 11:02 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • jaimee wrote:


Malcolm, Who will teach them? With two generations unable to comport themselves because of lack of teaching in their own formative years, who can do this job? Are you suggesting a return to dogmatic moralism.jc

  • 74.
  • At 11:11 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • EJM wrote:

the 22p cans of lager are at 2% not the strong 5-8% lagers. Our parents only had a choice of lagers at a maximum of 4% and 7-10% on wine. Maybe drinking lower % alcohol is better than the higher % ones. The newer 0% alcohol lager are very expensive maybe that should be addressed.

  • 75.
  • At 11:13 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • David Cordingley wrote:

This is just the kind of report the Brewers and Distillers can handle. Focussing on alcoholics does not begin to tackle the massive harm that alcohol is doing to the nation.

The one thing Government and the industry will not accept (and they rejected this in the report commissioned by the Government) is that harm is related to total national consumption and that total consumption is related to price.

By the way it is completely wrong to think that the southern European countries do not have a big problem. France has the highest rate of liver cirhossis and Italy has big problem with family violence and other hidden problems.

  • 76.
  • At 11:15 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Alice wrote:

I'm a 17 year old A level student in an affluent part of Southern Britain. I agree that cost will not halt anyone - if people want something, they will get it. In my opinion the only answer is education. Whilst at secondary school the dangers of drug abuse and unprotected sex were hammered home to us repeatedly, and even though a majority of people at my college have done both, it is still frowned upon. However, alcohol seems to be respected and it is rare that a Monday morning wont involve some talk of a drunken weekend. I wish I had been subjected to more honest accounts on the dangers of alcohol at a younger age - now we all go out and get drunk in the full knowledge of the dangers as all our friends do it. Furthermore, drinking applications on social networking sites such as Facebook do nothing to alleviate the situation.

  • 77.
  • At 11:21 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Linda Sims wrote:

Nobody seems to mention the culture of cheaper drink at University bars.
My children certainly had a culture of drinking far in excess of my husband and I who could barely exist on our grants let alone afford to hone our excessive drinking skills!

  • 78.
  • At 11:21 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Nicholas Swift wrote:

I work as a doctor in substance misuse on the Wirral.

We are dealing with a serious problem, and a growing one especially in respect to the consumption of strong lager e.g. Skol Super, Tennants Super, that are 9% in strength, each can costing £1 or so and containing 4.5 units.

As well as this, strong cider e.g. White Lightning, Frosty Jack that are 7.5%, and £2.99 for 3 litres (22units).

I have patients who are drinking around 66 units a day for less than £10.

This is killing them. This is not acceptable in our society.


  • 79.
  • At 11:28 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Claire Burns wrote:

I totally agree with the sentiments of the Dr and others in the Alcohol is Dangerous lobby. As part of an Eduational Theatre Co. I sometimes work in schools and have run sessions on Alcohol misuse (one series funded by the Portman Group). To do this we had to research the topic thoroughly and the more I learned the more I was discouraged from drinking. But one of my main bug bears is how people do make jokes and 'I'm The Big Guy' type comments about a big drinking night out or a hangover. If heroin users were to be DJs, celebrities, etc and sat on the TV or radio saying, "Oh, yeah man - it was a great night I was really out of it . . " people would be horrified. So why is it thought amusing when it is in reference to a drinking bout? It seems acceptable because it is legal, its alcohol etc. I drink rarely and have a great time when I go out and perform live comedy . . I don't need alcohol to have a good time - nor really does anyone!! Moderation is fine . . but why overdo it and why think that reaching such a state of oblivion is big/clever/worth it . . whatever it is people think? I also agree with the idea of taxing it more highly. It is not an essential item and it causes a huge number of deaths and great cost to the NHS. People can live without it if they can't afford it and if they can't live without it then they should seek help!

  • 80.
  • At 11:32 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Linda Sims wrote:

My children did not learn to drink at University but cheaper alcohol at the bars did 'improve' their intake.
We could barely exist on our grants in the 60's.
How can today's students afford it?
Why haven't they learned to enjoy themselves without resorting to excessive intake of alcohol?

If today's binge drinkers can afford so much alcohol, should they not be paying for any resulting medical attention?
At least after two warnings?
I'm not getting at responsible drinkers.

  • 81.
  • At 11:44 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Kerry wrote:

The 2003 Licensing Act gives licensing authorities the duty to follow the "objectives" when granting licences for the retail sale of alcohol. These are:
• the prevention of crime and disorder
• public safety
• the prevention of public nuisance
• the protection of children from harm
So, if a supermarket was selling alcohol as a loss leader the local council can remove the premises and the personal licences involved under all of the above. I cannot believe that any supermarket would have put "stack it high and sell it cheap" on their operating schedule when they applied for a licence and so would be in breach of their licence if they did so.
Why legislate when the police and local authority already have the solution, they just don't want to use it.

  • 82.
  • At 11:46 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Phil wrote:

I believe the problem is with the higher alcohol content of drink! I personally feel cheated by high content as i would like to see quaffable lower alcohol beers back on the pumps more refreshing and more liquid to help pass the alcohol from your system.I do feel that anti-social behavior is a personal thing for those who are and drinking is another way of them showing it,most of us are able to drink sociably and remain sociable its just that the noisey people of this world attract more coverage as the sociable quiet ones are boring in the media!Could you imagine the papers or newsnight being interested in nothing going on they could help by showing more of people behaving responsably but no thats not news is it!

  • 83.
  • At 11:47 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

The problem goes back to the first world war. That is when the licenscing times were brought in as too many soldiers were getting drunk. So what happeneed for the next 90 odd years is that everyone was getting as much drink down them before closing time. Especially in the later years when night clubs came in to fashion and club prices were so much higher. I can't see anyone changing 90 odd years of this culture, it is now epidemic. People from eastern europe drink alot of Vodka, but mostly at home whilst also eating. Yes o.k. they also have problems with alcoholics as we all do, but at least they have far less trouble on the steets through drinking.I have been to many parts of Europe East and West and the only people I have seen marauding in a drunken fashion have always been Brittish as I saw last year in Krakow. It makes me ashamed to say I am from England.

  • 84.
  • At 11:58 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Steve Betts wrote:

Is booze too cheap, should we change the law, and should the NHS pay, these questions have completely missed the point.

During the programme, only affluent western cultures were mentioned, and the problems that occur there.
Muslim countries don't drink and their culture relies on lifelong continuous education.

If I was allowed to frame an ad, it would be as simple as this.

With a picture of someone bandaged or damaged, with a sheepish grin on their face, with their arms outstretched.

For people that addict themselves to anything, and at some points in out lives, it could be anyone of us, the answer is to offer the kind of help that addresses the root cause of it.

I would like to go as far and say that all addictions are trauma based, because the effect of over-indulgence is a deliberate attempt to induce oblivion to the event that triggered it.

  • 85.
  • At 01:38 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Luke Fitzsimmons wrote:

I thought i wud join the discussion.

Some of you have it right while others wrong. The main problem is the lack of listening to these "anti-socialists" in the first place. The government loves tax increase as we are all aware, this will make no difference, i can still get £1 a pint at certain places and these offers are what creates business.
But why is getting rat-arsed such a terrible act?
I go to university and if the drinkin age was raised to 21, lets just say a lot of students would want to see heads roll, including me.

Binge drinking is paraded around the news all the time, but if u go out for one night a week and have 4 pints thats technically binge drinkin and they dont specify location. They just put on a picture of a drunken teenager in the paper and people persume we are like that about 3-4 times a week.
Noone in there right mind can afford this type of behaviour so they get hammered once a week at the most, for uni students thats closer to once a month!!!

It blows off steam and for one night makes us better, less tension on work and other emotional baggage they may be carrying. Sure its a emotional and cultural problem, but for its immense scale causes fewer problems. i get asked ID everywhere i go, if people cause a ruckus they get thrown out or arrested and i feel this is appropriate!

Raise taxs = No
Increase Drinking Age = No
Harsher penalties for those causing disturbance REAL anti-social behavior(fighting not throwing up) = YES

Personally i dont think anything shud be done except harsher penalties for those commiting a crime under the influence of alcohol, but we need harsher punishments for all our laws so drunkiness makes little difference.

But like anyone cares im 19, we dont get a voice remember, we are all antisocial stealing bastards without a conscience or is that just me? ;-)

  • 86.
  • At 02:04 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Kate MacDonald wrote:

Raise the tax on alcohol, and spend the revenue on providing services to help the growing number of people who are addicted to it.

  • 87.
  • At 03:24 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • A. S. wrote:

The root cause of binge drinking, drunken violence, alcoholism and every associated problem is, in my opinion, the catastrophically bad state education system Britain has. Alcohol, itself, as a substance, is not the cause. Give people the higher level of education those of other countries – where alcohol consumption, per capita, is the same, if not higher – enjoy and you will not only solve all the problems associated with the demon drink, but most other problems, too.

What person, reading this, has not ‘binge drunk’? What person has not drunk a large amount of alcohol, in a short space of time, at some point in their lives? For how many of you, was this the start of your descent into alcoholism, or, at the point of inebriation, how many of you became, spontaneously, violent? Not many of you, I dare say. Alcohol and its easy availability is not the cause of ‘alcohol-related’ problems.

Alcohol, truly, is a remarkable substance: it can give you the courage to do something you have always wanted but it cannot, under any circumstance, make you do that which would go against everything for which you stand. If, in reaction to a perceived slight, you wouldn’t ever consider violence, alcohol consumption – no matter how much – cannot change that. Tackle the root causes of alcoholism, drunken violence, etc.; don’t punish the law-abiding majority.

Obviously, the effects of excessive drinking in public are unseemly but most of the effects are not violent in nature. Public urination and vomiting is unsightly, but not violent, and loud and lairy behaviour is embarrassing, but, also, not violent, though the simpleton British media likes to say the contrary. On a Friday night and a Saturday night, the overwhelming majority of those who are drunk are ‘happy’ drunk. The police would attest to this, were they not after a bit of extra funding for night-time policing. Of course, violence may have increased, as stronger alcohol has become more widely available and 24-hour licensing has spread, but it’s the same minority, week in and week out, who are the perpetrators of the violence. These people are also the people who are violent and anti-social during the day, when sober, so, perhaps, alcohol consumption is not the common cause.

If only those who rule over us (the media, included) looked, purely, at ‘cause and effect’, rather than blame everything that is peripheral to the problem. Perhaps the country would be more civilised and perhaps we would be a freer people. For example, does it make sense that video games are thought, by our rulers, to have the magic-like power to make a person act out violently; that the ‘cervical cancer’ jab can make a girl have sex against her will; that expletives, in the media, can make you spontaneously swear in your everyday conversation; that watching, in TV advertising, cars being driven at high speeds, can make you drive at excessive speeds; that cigarette advertising can make you take up smoking (I loved the surreal Silk Cut print ads I saw as a child, in the ‘80s and early-‘90s, but I still don’t smoke); that buying The Pill, without a prescription, can make a girl start a life of promiscuity, etc.?

We have one of the most restrictive and illiberal societies in the Western world and, yet, some of the highest rates of almost every crime. At solving society’s problems over the decades, our illiberal ruling class don’t seem to have had a particularly welcome effect; much the opposite.

Keep in your mind that, if “A” is said to cause “B”, but just one person does not do “B” after doing “A”, then “A” cannot be the root cause of “B”.

78. Nicholas Swift
Thank you for pointing out the realitues. I too share your deep concern.
I have first hand experience of a close loved-one, who for a time of trouble in his/her life, combined White Lightning with substance abuse (tolulene): you clearly understand the potential here.
There is no place in a civilized society for White Lightning and the others you mention.
We must ask the question, what is the reasoning behind the producers decision (and allowance) to make these deadly drinks, and secondly, why are they legalized?

  • 89.
  • At 01:16 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Susan wrote:


I thought I'd contribute to this discussion because I'm a 21-year-old who grew up in Slovakia. I most definitely agree that binge drinking is a cultural thing and is in close correlation with our consumerist society that engourages people to buy masses of clothes, shoes and handbags, over eat on junk food, get "smashed" in bars, and then go and tell everybody about it on Monday. When I first came to England I was astounded by the ammount of money students spend on uneccessary items of clothing and drink. I don't think it helps that University fees and house prices are extremely high, therefore student loans are high, everybody has an overdraft and everybody is in debt whilst purchasing uneccesary things.
People in continental Europe, especially Eastern Europe, don't yet have this problem, but the attitude that drinking and having masses of shoes is cool is quickly spreading there as well.
It seems that people in the West have everything, from masses of junk, to illnesses caused by over-consumption. Maybe we're just not designed to have everything and because we already have a lot, we create problems for ourselves.. fees, overdrafts, the idea that we really need more than two pairs of trousers. I think people need to realize that happiness can't be bought or necessarily obtained in a high-powered stressful job, or found in two bottles of wine.. if we all slowed down and concentrated on things like protecting the environment, improving public trasport, walking to work and creating real relationships with people instead of ones based on a haze of alcohol, things might improve. It's society that needs to change..

  • 90.
  • At 03:27 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Ed wrote:

Oh, so suddenly it's MY fault that I'm being offered a toxic substance hand-over-fist by the powers that be. It just so happens that when I was in the supermarket buying my #fix#, the other day, it was offered to me for free - and without naming the brand, I was recommended to 'Taste the Love'. How sick is that?

88. Susan
Here, here, well said.
I would just point out that it is a misnomer to state that here we all have everything. There are major problems of serious poverty in the UK. Don't forget about 'the bigger picture'.

  • 92.
  • At 07:28 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Paul Howarth wrote:

How hypocritical! The House of Commons has a subsidised bar, yet clearly all MPs are not binge drinkers - so why can't they see that the price of alcohol is not the cause of binge drinking?

  • 93.
  • At 11:40 PM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • VJW wrote:

I think it's time for adverts for alcohol and sponsorship to be banned. Children of all ages are exposed far too often to adverts on TV showing slick/cool/funny adverts for alcohol. It enters the modern psyche. Guinness' clever adverts, Carlsberg's "Probably..." adverts and the John Smith's adverts starring Peter Kay are all examples. Ask any child above the age of 7 if they have seen them and most will have. Sponsorship - especially of sports teams and music events - that have a young audience should also be curtailed. The link between "cool" and drink needs to be broken before we can progress as a society.

  • 94.
  • At 11:54 PM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Duncan wrote:

My brother died at the age of 43 of liver failure in the Medway Maritime hospital in the summer. We always used to go for a few beers followed by a few more most nights of the week, which was never a problem.
His problems came when things went wrong in his life and he would just go to the pub for a beer or two. The pressures of work and home life then got too much and he went to work in pubs, throwing away a very promising career. Over the following 20 years he would be ok for a while and then something catastrophic would happen, a friend died, he was attacked while at work and he would go back to the booze.
The crux of my big brothers struggle with alcoholism was the terrible invention of the strong chemical induced lagers, ciders and to a lesser degree spirits. He also couldn't decipher where the "line" was for his drinking and how far he could step over it. Up to the final few days of his life, when he was yellow, his pupils were permanently dilated and he was in permanent pain, he still said that it wouldn't happen to him!
My brother was a very intelligent person with qualifications galore, he was from a very middle class background whose parents hardly ever drank. My other brother and myself both enjoy a drink or two but we know where that "line" is, he didn't.
People have died of alcohol related diseases for centuries, so raising taxes on booze and curbing binge drinking will never work. Proabition never worked in the States, illegal drugs are still prevalent in this country, what's being done about these? People need to be educated by seeing a person that has recently died due to an alcohol related disease.

  • 95.
  • At 09:36 AM on 16 Dec 2007,
  • Alan Tyson wrote:

When all in the studio expressed outrage at the 22p/can supermarket lager, did anyone read the label?

If it's the stuff I know & love (but prefer the equivalent bitter), it's only 2% alcohol, not the 5% that lager drinker usually consume in cans or bottles. The recommended adult male max. weekly dose of this (21 units) is about 24 cans.

It's rather hard to get drunk on it, because you'll be sick long before you're drunk. It's cheap because there's little duty on it.

Many years ago in Norway, 'real men's beer' was available only in special licensed premises, but this type of weak beer was freely available in supermarkets, and there was little demand for it.

In the UK, someone as well as me must be drinking it, but Asda gave up stocking it, presumably because of lack of demand.

Michael Bruce Cartney punched me with his fist, aimed and target met, above my right eye. HELP MEeeeeeee.
Isabella of Scots

Uxoricide/nonregicide - ' Regicide Actual attempted

  • 97.
  • At 07:45 AM on 15 Feb 2008,
  • Anthony wrote:

I think in recent months since I moved down to Portsmouth to start university, some university students, especially those in sports teams, play games like "touchcup", which I feel is a binge-drinking game. I had to skip out of the swimming club's social events as a result of their unnecessarily excessive drinking.

  • 98.
  • At 01:32 PM on 15 Feb 2008,
  • Cathryn wrote:

Where I am from the cheapest drink you can get it is £1.99. I think its good to have cheap booze so people can offerd it i drink every Saturday but i dont get ill or cuase trouble.

  • 99.
  • At 02:30 PM on 15 Feb 2008,
  • Cathryn wrote:

Where I am from the cheapest drink you can get it is £1.99. I think its good to have cheap booze so people can offerd it i drink every Saturday but i dont get ill or cuase trouble. Rasing the price wont make a diffrent to some people they will find away. Britain has gone mad its a social issue.

I think the drinking age in pubs should be lowered to 16 so they have some were safe and warm to drink and hang out with friends instead of waiting outside shops and asking strangers to buy there drink because we have all done this. I think this way the trouble on the streets would decline.

Not everyone gets drunk and cuases trouble lets here stories for them people. Higering prices is a punishment why punish us all.

For most people alcohol is the root of all evil but in my opinion it’s a matter of choice not price.

Some people couldn’t afford drink if it was too expensive but does that mean they shouldn’t be able to go out and have a good time with friends. All thoe you don’t need to be drunk to have a good time some people on the weekend like to relax and forget about all the problems that occurred in the week by having a few drinks.

But every now again its fun to get really drunk and make a fool of yourself that doesn’t mean were going out to beat someone up or get arrested.

We should all no our limitations if we go to far then its our own fault.

  • 100.
  • At 08:03 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • james daniels wrote:

i cant see how raising prices will help, to be honest alcohol isnt that cheap, and drugs are coming down in price. do we really want a culture where it costs a 14 year old less to pick up ecstacy which is only what 2-3 quid a pill and is very easy to get hold of, i know, just got out of the drug culture which i started when about 16. the reason i got into it was cos it was easier to get than alcohol! so if we raise the prices and the drinking age, we will end up with more people bige driinking when they can cos theyll only be able to buy drink once a week, and the rest of the week taking drugs. . . all while the givernemnt role about in the extra cash we give them.

  • 101.
  • At 09:15 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Hannah Jones wrote:

It's not the price that is the problem. France has much cheaper alcohol than we do. We have a very bizarre attitude to it in Britain, which children are exposed to to from a very early age. Namely that alcohol/pubs are kind of funny because shock, gets you drunk! And being drunk, you can act in sometimes a loud and funny way! Snigger, snigger. In France, a glass of wine/beer is just another refreshment.

  • 102.
  • At 09:48 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • brian hinchcliffe wrote:

Booze is clearly too cheap when adolescents can afford to drink large quantities nearly every night. It is too readily sold and supply laws are not policed adequately nor infringements treated severely enough. The relaxing of the drinking times became a relaxing of normal standards of behaviour. In my village in France the bar is entitled to stay open until 2 a.m. it stays open rarely after 8 p.m. as customers go home to their main priority, their evening meal. British popular culture has little respect for eating or drinking properly. For centuries, even in pre-Roman times, the Brits have been known as intemperate and agressive drinkers. Why should this suddenly change because drink is now available available at any hour?

  • 103.
  • At 10:24 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Anna wrote:

I most certainly agree that this is a cultural issue above all else. I have travelled around much of Europe and North America and have never witnessed more shocking displays of intoxication than in Britain, from children to older adults, alcohol seems to be part of what defines Britain. However, the shockingly low cost of alcohol from Britain's own local shops and pubs encourages this sickening culture to the point where it has become difficult to establish where the root of the problem is. Irresponsible drinkers themselves or irresponsible sellers? It has become a cycle that needs to be treated seriously by the government, and it needs to be done before picking up a large bottle of cheap vodka every week becomes as normal as buying a loaf of bread.
Furthermore, in addition to some of the comments on here, it is not only a poverty issue. Think of the student culture in Britain. These university students generally come from well off families, but they have the highest drinking rates in the country...surely much higher than poverty stricken indiviuals, as student bars and clubs have shockingly cheap alcohol deals every night,even on weekdays. It is a cultural issue that is not at all defined by class but by nationality--British. Sellers need to stop embedding this further into the culture by selling alcohol at cheap prices. If anyone does not see the drinking culture in England an issue, simply step into the centre of which ever town you live in during any evening and witness it first hand.

  • 104.
  • At 10:31 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Steve Ashton wrote:

Society has changed. Cheap booze is now commonplace, but this is not simply a cultural problem. Although I am not a labour supporter, some blame must be laid at the door of the Tories who changed the brewing landscape in this country by forcing the brewery industry into being either brewer or retailer (previously brewers had also managed supply through their own pubs.

It was called a 'complex monopoly', yet when brewers managed pubs there was responsible promotion of drink and pubs were viewed as important community focal points. Now, with pub groups no more than retailers (a la supermarkets) they are only interested in undercutting the competition; therefore there is no restraint shown and no social responsibility evident, on the part of the retailers.

  • 105.
  • At 11:01 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Artur from Poland wrote:

Sorry, but average englishman on citybreak in Poland (Kraków, Wroclaw) behave as a drunk monkey! You english like do be drunk and behave as stupide as we only emagine, no respect for other city center users. 12,20,40,50 years old english woman or man drink without limits and pride to be drunk sa sick!!!
Is your national pride??? Be drunk and look stupid as you only can...24 hours drinking welcome...

  • 106.
  • At 11:18 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • GK (Glasgow) wrote:

When beer is cheaper than water, something is far wrong in our supermarkets - and legislation is indeed required.

But what need is not a fixed minimum price for beer.

It's a fixed maximum price for bleedin water...

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