The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

Time to consider radical solutions in battle with problem drinking


The UK has long had a toxic relationsh­ip with alcohol.

Far too many lives are being lost as a result of addiction and it remains an intractabl­e problem, with no obvious solutions.

Home drinking rose during the Covid pandemic and it has, to a degree, become normalised.

It goes without saying the vast majority of people can control their intake and choose to drink responsibl­y.

So whatever remedies we find should not unduly punish that large proportion of the population.

But how do we introduce safeguards to protect the vulnerable – and thereby reduce the harm, both individual and societal – caused by problem drinking?

Today we report on growing calls to review alcohol advertisin­g, particular­ly in so far as women are concerned.

It comes hot on the heels of news British women are the world’s biggest binge drinkers.

There is money to be made, particular­ly around Christmas time, and the manufactur­ers of alcohol are naturally keen to make the most of the market.

Frank and honest debate is required

Drinking in moderation does nobody any harm, but we ignore the risks – including the heightened potential for breast cancer, strokes and dementia – at our peril.

Psychiatri­st Dr Peter Rice is leading the calls for an independen­t regulatory watchdog with powers to limit exposure to advertisin­g.

Self-regulation by the alcohol companies and advertiser­s has, he insists, failed.

He is right to warn such a move would be strongly resisted by the industry, but that does not mean it should be ruled out.

Mum of two Helen Clopin battled alcohol addiction for years and admits she found it hard to avoid the booze aisle in supermarke­ts.

She fears the rise in advertisin­g aimed specifical­ly at women could lead more people to encounter similar issues.

Making alcohol appear fashionabl­e or fun is a clear strategy for advertiser­s, but trying to normalise drinking as an everyday occurrence should certainly be seen as dangerous.

Many countries have tried to curb alcohol sales by introducin­g limits in supermarke­ts, with higher-strength products only being sold in separate stores.

Whether or not that would make a meaningful difference in the UK is unclear, but it is becoming increasing­ly evident that the status quo must be challenged.

If we really want to make inroads into one of this country’s most deep-rooted problems then a full, frank and honest debate is required.

So many families have been ripped apart as a result of excess drinking, and the cost to the NHS is immense.

As such it affects us all, not just those in the grip of addiction.

It won’t be easy, and there will be plenty of opposition, but it must be time to at least talk about radical solutions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom