The Demon Drink (Photo credit: Mr Jaded)
After everyone got bladdered to celebrate New Year, and no doubt Valentine’s Day provided couples with the excuse to crack open a bottle of wine or two, the Prime minister has set the coalition’s agenda to tackle the scourge of alcohol.
His plans include a series of non penal measures, including, “Booze buses, “Drunk Tanks, and Police patrols of A&E wards to crack down on drunken behaviour.
David Cameron has also not ruled out setting a minimum price for alcohol, which has been touted by Alcohol Concern.
This plan was rejected under Iain Duncan Smith’s leadership.
January saw MPs recommend a two day sober up for drinkers.
Now, everywhere, marketers of the NHS and beyond are trying to dream up ways of enticing people off the demon drink or scaring people into thinking their livers are on the way out if they drink too much.
Alcohol abuse costs the NHS £2.7 billion every year (or £90 for every taxpayer). These costs include £645 million in accident and emergency visits, £372 million in ambulance costs an £272 million in outpatient visits.
In London, the trial of alcohol identity bracelets is under way, where alcohol-fuelled offenders are tagged, and if they drink alcohol while tagged, they are dragged back to jail.
The problems, in my opinion, are these:
You will never be able to stamp this problem into the long grass if you simply hike up the price of alcohol. Although there are families living in huge debt in this country, those who can and cannot afford it will still get their hands on it regardless of whether they can pay for it or not. Hiking up the price could also send a message to criminal gangs that there is a “market” for cheap alcohol that is “fake” – such as was the “fake” alcohol factories discovered in Lincolnshire last year!
The other problem stems from the long tradition of culture in this country. A deep rooted problem that going on the lash is a normal popular past time of students, stressed out workers, and the celebrity rich and famous, who can afford to stay a week in a posh rehabilitation clinic – others can’t.
This is, in my opinion, one topic that is always going to be lingering over a government and the smell just won’t go away from a few token reforms, or tag bracelets.
I wonder if the politicians go home every night, and crack open a bottle, pondering how to tackle it?
Our demons really are on our cabinet tables…