Balanced boozing!

Once again, the scourge of Britain is in the news…

FRONTLINE workers across the North-East have joined forces to say they have had enough of the problems caused by alcohol misuse. (Northern Echo)

Apparently, Balance NE  is the North East of England’s ‘Alcohol Office’? No, it’s not yet another retail outlet where you can purchase your next discounted 24 pack! J Balance seeks to; “inspire changes in the way we think about and drink alcohol in order to encourage people to enjoy a good time but reduce their consumption”.

Having spent a large portion of my time as a police officer dealing with the after effects of booze and, previously written at length on the subject, I fully appreciate the issue. I can also fully understand the impact upon our public services and, it is hardly surprising these ‘after affects’ costs the UK somewhere in the region of £1billion annually. But why do we as a nation tend to drink to excess and more importantly irrespective of the adverse personal health issues, why does this level of excess often turn into violence (and other crime)?

Some facts from Balance and the Northern Echo report include;

  • 49% of 18-24 year olds in the North east drink to get drunk (Balance – NE Big Drink Debate survey)
  • A large contributory factor is that alcohol is 70% more affordable today, in relative terms, than it was in 1980. (Northern Echo)
  • 1 in 3 drinkers have got into a risky situation as a result of drinking too much alcohol (Balance – NE Big Drink Debate survey)

To a certain extent, it is far too simplistic (and convenient) to keep bashing the retailer and the ‘cheap’ price of booze, this like additional tax proposals are a short term remedy for a long term problem… The issues our society (and emergency services) face today are the direct result of decades of liberalism in family and society values. Any reversing of these trends requires society to once again set boundaries of acceptable behaviour. And here we have the most difficult factor to address… A large proportion of that society actually believes; getting off your head and into a stupor is perfectly normal and acceptable?

Because people will never willingly change a mentality they believe (rightly/wrongly) to be correct, there has to be an element of enforced change, in addition to all the information and guidance. I am not suggesting for one moment that the UK needs to turn into some form of ‘police state’ to reverse these trends however; a lack of parental control, often limited resources for effective law enforcement, coupled with increased individual freedoms of choice and human rights (with absolutely no regard for others) are just as much to blame.

As a retired person with a reduced income and one who also enjoys a drink, why shouldn’t I be able to benefit from being able to purchase alcohol at reasonable discounted prices? That said, ‘enjoying a drink’ does not mean it has to be to excess and should never be to the detriment of anyone else. I have always found it strange that; a large proportion of those who ‘abuse’ alcohol and drink to excess are those who should have less disposable income i.e. unemployed or benefit claimants?

Balance NE may well provide the forum to debate the Booze Britain culture, which has become a blight of our nation however; my main concern is they don’t end up just another ‘partnership talk shop’ like so many other agencies and organisations. They will undoubtedly have their work cut out for them as the NE has one of the highest levels of binge drinking and unemployment in the UK.

It is also most annoying (and probably a major reason behind our apparent lack of National pride) that once again, as with the current national financial problems; the majority of our society has to be penalised in an effort to control the wrongdoings of the minority… Is this what is meant by the term ‘reverse psychology’?

Applying increases in price structure to a source of the problem is in essence; little more than the same ‘loss leader’ methodology applied by supermarket chains. An action to reduce the resulting effects, instead of addressing the cause!

Note: For those that have an opinion about the problems, you really should consider geting involved in the Government Consultation Process about how to put it right.

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