Britain’s Drink Problem
June 11, 2019
Last night if you have, like I did, watched Panorama on BBC1, it was about “Britain’s Drink Problem” presented by Adrian Chiles.
After watching it, I was left disappointed. I thought that the program should and could have done a better job, it just scratched the surface of a huge problem and did not find or suggest any solution, except the weekly recommended unit to be included in the label, or added anything that I and many other people already knew. I thought the investigation was focusing on the wrong issues, does anyone really believe that adding the number of weekly units we are allowed to drink on the back of the label will make any difference in the way we drink? Does anybody even read the back label? What about the drinks served in bar and restaurant, should we start using glasses indicating the number of units? The only bit, too short, I found interesting is when Adrian went to Scotland and interviewed a retailer and a doctor, and both were pleased with the minimum pricing initial effects, even though it is still the beginning. The retailer did not complain of sales reduction, the cheapest wine was still about £5 and the others had seen an increase of a 30/50p, people were still buying their drinks and the doctor said that the most dramatic hospital cases had reduced. The only difference was the 3L strong cider, they did not have it. I would have loved the program to have started with the actions Scotland and other countries have taken to solve the problem and then move to England and see what we could apply here.
Having the total number of weekly units on the label, the only practical solution suggested, won't stop people buying or drinking alcohol, the same way the initiatives being taken to help fight obesity are not producing the hoped for effects, the obesity rate is still going up and growing fast.
As early as 2009 I wrote on this same blog that I did, and still believe, that the minimum price alone is not the solution to the problem but can certainly help to alleviate it, as the Scottish doctor said on his interview. Minimum pricing won’t make people drinking responsibly, but will ensure that the most dramatic cases disappear. The real issue is not the bottle of wine going up by 30p, people are still buying it and retailers selling it, but it is the 3L of strong cider available at about £4, this is the real problem, this is what creates serious health issue and put NHS under immense stress. Does anyone believe that by writing “Please remember that your weekly recommended maximum units of alcohol are 14” on the label of the 3L strong cider will make the people who buy it drinking more responsibly? A 3L strong cider should not even be available, let alone at less than £4.
We have learned from history that prohibition doesn’t work, and minimum pricing in a way is part of that approach, so it cannot be the solution, it can help temporarily until a permanent solution is found, but to solve the problem we need much more. We don’t need laws or taxes, we need education and to get rid of the 3L strong cider or any other similar drink. We need to educate people, change the drinking culture, and this is what I would have loved Panorama to explore. Investigate the reasons behind the binging culture, and discuss what education can do to solve the problem.
Labelling, minimum pricing, they may bring some short term results, but they are not the solution to the problem, only education and changing the culture can solve it.
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