16 2 mins 8 yrs

I will be on the Nolan TV show this evening, BBC1 Northern Ireland. The topic being debated is how do we cope with the alcohol abuse which is all to evident on our streets. One suggestion is that we should impose minimum pricing on alcoholic drinks. I think this is a crazy idea and will be opposing it. Here are some of my thoughts on the issue;

1. Most people drink sensibly and in moderation. Only a minority abuse alcohol, why should we therefore penalise the vast majority of sensible drinkers?

2. Those who DO consume the most alcohol exhibit price are the least price elastic. They will  pay what it takes to get what they want. By increasing prices, you deprive them of disposal income. This could push them into poverty.

3. There is evidence that suggests that those who drink moderately enjoy better health than those who are teetotal. If you push moderate drinkers out of the market, might you then actually damage their health?

4. In countries like Denmark and Sweden, alcohol prices are already high. They still suffer from alcohol abuse. In France, alcohol prices are low and alcohol abuse is also lower.

5. If putting the price of something stopped the most vulnerable from buying it, have you SEEN the number of teenage girls who smoke?

6. Alcohol abuse is cultural. You deal with it by making it uncool. Yet Films, TV and Music play it up as a cool thing.

Seeking to manipulate price is far too crude, there is no empirical evidence to support it, and it will do more harm than good. Thoughts?

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  1. Agree on all points.

    This is a cultural and to some extent a medical problem.

    The soft prohibition of raising the price won’t make the culture change.

    Cutting the price in half IMO would not cause people to drink more.

    Cultures can change. It didn’t used to be the norm in the UK to binge drink as many do now. If the below is correct per capita consumption peaked in 2004 and has gone down about 14 percent since then. Build on that.


  2. Leave the cost of alcohol exactly where it is, but charge weekend binge drinkers a minimum £100 for treatment.
    More if extra medical care s required.
    Set up separate drunk emergency centres, so that A&E is for real emergencies only and people don’t have to be intimidated,
    and then charge an extra fine on top for being drunk and disorderly.
    That should cut out a lot of it.
    It flourishes because we idiots feed it.
    If you cater for something you guarantee there will be more of it.

  3. // Alcohol abuse is cultural. //

    That’s one thing I’ve never understood.
    I’ve been to Italy dozens of times but never once saw an Italian drunk. I saw loutish behaviour on the streets only once, and that was a group of visiting young Englishmen.
    But other people seem to make a sacrament of getting smashed out of their heads – the Irish get drunk and loud, Russians get drunk and violent, Scandinavians get drunk and cry like children.

  4. True, Noel. But isn’t there a drinking culture in parts of Germany too – I’m thinking Bavaria?

    I used to visit Berlin regularly and don’t think I ever encountered an obnoxious drunk. I wish I could say the same thing about Dublin!

  5. Alcohol doesn’t cause people to be violent. People who blame their behaviour on external agencies when they’re sober are far more likely to blame alcohol for their criminal behaviour when they’re drunk.

  6. Ross

    I don’t know. Alcohol does lower inhibitions in all kinds of ways.

    It can cause the phenomenon of the ” mean drunk ” who says things that he wouldn’t dare when he was sober, it can make the guy feel more comfortable smacking his wife around.

    I’d think that the drunk actor generally remains 100% responsible for what he does, but yes I do think that alcohol can make one more prone to violence, etc.

    The schools in some places may want to teach preteens about la bella figura, the Italian view to life that I think Pete wrote about some time ago. You don’t see Italian women and men puking in front of any pubs, ever. A good man knows his limits, as Clint Eastwood said in the movie.


  7. Wow – On your planet Italians are behaved! On my planet they are crude and boorish with women who commit the crime of simply walking down the street. They go through governments like I go through socks. And while their Mafia can hold entire cities in check, their army makes the French look competent.

    Maybe they should start drinking more.

  8. //Maybe they should start drinking more.//

    Mahons, did you hear that this week in your ancestral homeland a pub is being converted into a church?

    I think it’s time you returned.

  9. being both Irish and Italian I find this thread quite amusing.

    Alcoholism, and Drug addiction can not be controlled by cost. They are both symptoms of other INDIVIDUAL problems that lead into the mental disease of addiction. Addiction can only be dealt with on the individual basis, not by price control.

    Each person that indulges in substance abuses does so for their own reasons. Reasons that can never be controlled by mass means.

    The idea that they can, are the folly of the ignorant.

  10. those that do and are not still children or have just suffered a death, have a mental defect even if it’s not full blown addiction.

    When you alter your reality to the point that you lose control you have a defect.

  11. A huge percentage of people go along with the herd. And when the culture sucks, when it is defective in a fundamental way, the herd instinct is even worse than it normally is.

    The English / Irish /Scandinavian / Russian / other drinking culture is awful in huge subsets of the population.

    But that’s partially good news, because cultures can and do change.

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