Sunday, 11 October 2009

On the piss or taking the piss

In response to a news story of Morrison's refusing to sell wine to a woman in her fifties in case her 17 daughter drinks it a frustrated supermarket customer posted this on the Guardian's Comment is Free website:
I get asked for ID a lot - I'm 27 - and it makes me really mad. I do look younger than my age but more often than not the checkout assistant is about 16, which I find really annoying. It happened in Sainsbury's last week - a 16 year old kid asking me for ID. I told him I was 27 and had been legally allowed to drink for almost a decade. I told him I had a degree and I was on my way back to my own home after a hard day at work (hoping) to have a relaxing glass of wine with my girlfriend in front of the TV. He just sat there shaking his head. I called my girlfriend (also 27) over because she had her driving license on her and he still refused to serve us in case she gave the alcohol to me when we left the shop. The people who were in the queue behind me were saying tutting and saying things like, 'You should be flattered,' and I was thinking 'FUCK OFF!' I'm 27 years old and all I want is a glass of wine and this fucking school kid won't let me have one!

Alcohol is a serious matter. Over recent years we have seen a public health epidemic as this graph showing the doubling of alcohol deaths since the early 1990s.

Alcohol-related death rates by sex, United Kingdom, 1991-2007 (Source: National Statistics 2009)

So is being hassled for ID even into old age a price worth paying to reduce alcohol deaths? Not at all!! It is a diversion intended to distract our attention from the real problem. We know how to reduce alcohol harm. There is a significant body of scientific evidence which clearly shows that the harm caused by alcohol is directed related to its availability which itself is related to primarily price but also licencing hours.

The Government knows this and has had it spelt out to them by the Chief Medical Officer in his 2009 Annual Report.
Quite simply, England is drinking far too much. England has an alcohol problem. Alcohol is not simply a problem for the minority who are dependent on it - it is a problem for everybody … There is a clear relationship between price and consumption of alcohol … Price increases generally reduce heavy drinkers' consumption by a greater proportion than they reduce moderate drinkers' consumption.
Simple really, but not according to the alcohol industry. They have the ear of government and have, without any evidence, argued that their is no relationship between price and consumption. (Interestingly they tend to ignore this conclusion when promoting their drugs!!) For producers and retailers of alcohol know their profits come from heavy drinkers. The old lady having the occasional sherry is insignificant when compared to the binge drinking teenager.

The Government however realise that if they want to help their drink pushing friends by reducing taxation (and hence the price) of alcohol and removing restrictions on the hours of sales then some busybodies (like doctors) may raise concerns at the dramatic damage done to tens of thousands of peoples health. So they have to do something. So supermarkets push cheap alcohol, (including products clearly aimed at any age drinkers), government deregulate and grandad gets challenged for his ID. Those who say its silly get accused of promoting excessive and underage drinking whilst the alcohol industry enjoys bumper profits and an avoidable public health epidemic continues.

PS Much though it sticks in my throat credit must be given to the Conservative Party for addressing this issue at their latest conference and promising action.

However call me a cynic but I suspect that any Conservative government will turn out just as much a friend of alcohol pushers as New Labour has been.

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