Minimum alcohol pricing will not be enough

So, after a disasterous budget, in which the chancellor George Osborne managed to upset just about everyone other than his stock broker and Tarquin and Hugo down on the Kings Road, the government is now proposing a minimum alcohol price for England and Wales. 

(Side note to the Sun about its budget coverage: it’s no good feigning utter outrage on behalf of all your valued readers now. You were largely responsible for putting Osborne and Cameron in charge of the nation’s finances. What on earth did you expect from a Tory government?)

The alcohol news is conveniently timed to say the least – given the general reaction to the budget. But to be fair it is probably a sensible strategy – although I’m not sure how much difference it will really make.

If people want to get wasted on some kind of a substance – be that alcohol or drugs – they will, often regardless of price. There is a binge drinking culture in this country that businesses, young people, middle aged people and some old people often take full advantage of, and it is heavily engrained.

It’s acceptable, no more than that, it is actually normally seen as funny and entertaining in this country, when someone stumbles around drunk, yelling stupid things or falling over their own feet.

Elsewhere this isn’t so much the case. I was recently in Italy, and on nights out the atmosphere in clubs was very different to in London. Yes, young people were drinking and having a good time and dancing until the early hours, but there was a nuanced difference to the way they were doing this.

It, generally, wasn’t a case of people downing as much as possible to get trashed as quickly as possible, but instead most were enjoying a more sensible level of drinking, while they chatted to friends and danced for hours on end.

If you exit one of these clubs and find a local shop that sells wine, you can find bottles of the stuff for just as little, if not a lot less (and they taste a lot better) than you can in shops in the UK.

So I don’t think the government’s minimum pricing will necessarily harm the situation, but by themselves these types of measures are not going to make much difference. It’s a slow cultural change that is needed, and for that to occur all of society, from parents, to schools, to businesses need to play their part.

I can’t help but worry that the government’s new agenda by itself will do little other than further line the pockets of big supermarkets.

By Sophie Hudson


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