Taking the dog for a stroll through the local park is turning into an obstacle course of juvenile debris and alcohol fuelled detritus. The daily foray into this hazardous environment, which almost requires a comprehensive risk assessment prior to each trip is only eased by the fact that, days are shortening and the weather is becoming more inclement.
The problem at this time of the year is prevalent mostly at weekends but, cast back to the longer warmer evenings of the summer and it was an almost daily issue. Despite the best endeavours of the local council clear up teams, fighting an almost unwinnable battle against, broken bottles, discarded fast-food packaging and the odd used condom or three, the latter of which I suppose should be partly commended?
The area is littered with increasing impunity despite it being (partly) under the eye of an urban CCTV system however; I suspect the cameras have probably seized to their mountings due to lack of use. The area is also ‘designated’ under the The Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 in relation to the consumption of alcohol in public places however; even that piece of (arguably) useful legislation, which is under scrutiny by many as an infringement of human rights (see here), has become almost superfluous. Government cuts and budgetary constraint mean it is mostly poorly implemented, due to an ever decreasing visible police patrol resource. Perhaps the council should be required to start issuing personal protective equipment (PPE) to dogs and their owners, as well as their employees?
But the problem is bigger than litter alone… According to Professor David Nutt in The Lancet last year – “alcohol is more harmful than heroin or crack” when the overall dangers to the individual and society are considered. The BBC also recently pointed out (again) that “drinking too much alcohol is bad for us. It gives us hangovers, makes us feel tired and does little for our appearance – and that is just the morning afterwards” (read more). But how many of us actually care what little Jonny/Jenny is up to in the park?
Not as many as should be I’ll be bound. You see for many the problem is out of sight and consequently out of mind. That said, how anyone can actually formulate an educated and informed opinion about drinking and the problems created by our (mostly underage) excess is a little beyond me. According to our sensationalistic media machine, one week booze is bad for you (in any quantity), the next it’s ok in moderation. But ‘safe’ levels are not the real issue.
Despite the fact different people have different ideas about what ‘moderation’ actually means, much of the ‘official’ advice from health bodies and the government is somewhat flawed. Much of the information is funded or formulated by ‘interested’ parties. By that I mean individuals and/or organisations who have some political or financial interest in the information being published.
It’s one of the reasons why Professor Nutt refused to leave the drugs [alcohol] debate when he was sacked from his official government post by the former Labour Home Secretary, Alan Johnson. In addition, many recipients of the information and advice provided by people like Nutt et all don’t really give a stuff in any case, just so long as they achieve their objective of getting totally bladdered.
“We need to be very careful when suggesting there is a ‘safe’ level of drinking for the population. Rather, we need to explain that there are risks associated with alcohol consumption, and that the less you drink the lower your risk is of developing health problems…(Katherine Brown, head of research at the Institute of Alcohol Studies)
Being someone who likes a drink, and has observed alcohol and the licensed trade both internally and externally all my life, I would suggest that even Katherine Brown’s proposal is also destined to failure, at least in the short-term. There is already a myriad of information, advice and legislation around alcohol consumption but we still fail to make any realistic and sustained headway in combating the resulting problems. It’s hard for adults to grip the facts, never mind our yoof who in any case, are far more interested in the here and now of a good time and sod their future, never mind anyone else’s.
The latest champion to the cause of underage drinking is the Member of Parliament for Totnes, Dr. Sarah Wollaston MP. She believes a major factor is advertising and recently introduced a Private Members Bill to the House of Commons regarding the advertising of alcohol to youngsters and says…
About 13 young people will die this week as a result of alcohol, and about 650 this year. Nearly a quarter of all deaths of young people aged between 15 and 24 are caused by alcohol. That is two every day-far more than are killed by knife crime or cancer-yet this tragic loss from alcohol attracts far less by way of a response. These totally avoidable deaths are just the tip of the iceberg and do not begin to represent the full scale of the harm caused by alcohol to children.
Alcohol blights lives, with criminal records as a result of violent and antisocial behaviour, and it results in educational failure. Regretted and unprotected sex raises the risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Around 7,500 children are admitted every year to English hospitals alone as a result of acute intoxication, and that figure does not include the carnage in our accident and emergency departments.
But as she also rightly points out – “There are many contributing factors and no simple solutions.” The problems we now face as a society are our own doing. We have sat with a laissez-faire attitude about so many issues impacting upon our kids for too long and given almost totally free rein to our youth, both as parents and as a society. Many of the issues we now have in epidemic proportions are totally engrained within our society. Our failures today are the direct result of our failures over the past twenty plus years, all ably assisted by our mostly self-interested narcissistic leadership, and they can’t and won’t be fixed over night.
As with the serial crooks, the benefits fraudsters and the educationally lacking in our somewhat feckless society, what was once something of a lifestyle choice for many, has now become endemic and habitual. In many towns and cities across the nation, we now see families of several generations that actually know no different. The problems we now face are so indelibly ingrained and embedded that it will also take as many generations to remove them again. That said, we can’t sit crying into our hands and do nothing, we need to start somewhere.
A fundamental aspect of any education (child or adult) is the understanding that; all actions have consequences. That and the realistic possibility of actually experiencing those consequences at first hand. This is another area where we tend to consistently fail our children. We seem to allow them to meander aimlessly through their mostly virtual lives, cosseted and protected from worldly reality in their early years, then let them loose on society to run amuck in their teens.
Finding a cure for the yoof hangover won’t be a simple task but correctly utilising some of the measures we already have in place would be a good starting point. Instead of trying to develop new ones, lets use the ones we have much more effectively, if only to prevent them becoming yet another white elephant of public expenditure!
- More motorists ‘driving with a hangover’ (confused.com)
- Britain’s drunkest woman (thesun.co.uk)
- VIDEO: Binge drinking spreads to France (bbc.co.uk)
- 24-hour drinking: Preserving good pubs will help our drinking problem (telegraph.co.uk)
- The excess is not in alcohol but in Britain’s self-loathing | Jonathan Jones (guardian.co.uk)
- You: Tough love stops binge drinking, Demos claims (guardian.co.uk)