High booze prices won’t cork binge drinking
BOOZE has been a big part of my life – living with an alcoholic for over 15 years, I know too well how drinking can destroy a relationship. Love turns into loathing; trust morphs into suspicion – on a daily basis. All my working life has been spent in an industry where people drink every day. In my 20s as a junior journalist, I would hang out in clubs downing Cosmopolitans at lunchtime.
Working in television in my 30s, I was so disgusted by the levels of boozing that I stopped drinking altogether for six months. I’ve never managed that again – four weeks has been my limit.
But as I’ve got older, the fear of brain damage and memory loss has kicked in, so I’ve come to know when to stop: never more than two glasses of wine when alone. I am a control freak, someone who wants to live to be 100, focused on survival – and yet I find alcohol so seductive.
It doesn’t surprise me at all that the death rates from booze among my generation of women are rising faster than for men, and have risen by a third in the last decade. More women work than ever, and can’t see anything wrong with having a glass or two at the end of the day to wind down. It doesn’t make them problem drinkers – but something more fundamental has happened: a change in mindset.
Many women think it’s their right to drink as much as they want, whenever they want. Of course it is, but what are the consequences? I have plenty of friends who never leave a bottle empty, who proudly say: “I don’t drink three days a week”, but then drink far too much on the other days.
I regularly see women drinking from 11am – gin and tonics, huge glasses of nasty white wine and rosé. These aren’t girls out celebrating, but businesswomen travelling in first class, where the drinks are free.
Last week, Scotland became the first country in the world to set a minimum price for alcohol, after winning a fiveyear legal battle in the UK’s Supreme Court. They want to set a minimum price of 50p (R9.33) per unit, which means a bottle of wine would cost more than £4.50 and whiskey at least £14.
Scotland has a real problem with excessive drinking, said to cause 1 000 deaths a year, not to mention the millions spent by the NHS dealing with booze-related illness.
Street drinking is another social problem in our major cities.
In Cardiff, the local police are giving shopkeepers breathalyser kits, asking them not to sell alcohol to customers who register “high”.
It’s illegal to sell booze to anyone who is already drunk, so the retailer has a right to protect themselves from prosecution, but should the police expect shop assistants to negotiate with customers who could be unruly and aggressive?
Minimum pricing and breathalysers in shops are just straws in the wind when it comes to resetting our troubled relationship with booze.I used to think pricing was part of the solution to the problem, but now I am not so sure.
From my own experience, an alcoholic will drink anything no matter the price. It’s not about the taste, it’s about altering your perception of the world.
Addicts will still be addicts, whatever the pricing. It’s the same with drugs. In fact, young people are drinking less than my generation ever did; it’s baby boomers and middle-aged professionals who need to have a wake-up call – and they are the voters politicians cannot afford to alienate.
If a generation of older women and thousands of pensioners want to drink too much, there’s not much the government can do about it. They will say: “It’s our life, not yours to micromanage”.
Just hope that today’s sensitive snowflakes grow up to be tomorrow’s sensible citizens.