Leave me alone with my glass of cheap beer
I don’t like being told what to do. Ask my mum and dad, or any of my old schoolteachers.
In common with many other strong-willed (stubborn) people, I find that the one way to make me do the wrong thing is to tell me that it’s the wrong thing.
Which is why I strongly object to any attempts by the government to educate people about the dangers of alcohol – or to influence behaviour by setting a minimum price per unit.
The latest reports claim that tens of thousands of lives could be saved in the next 20 years if a minimum price of 50p per unit is introduced.
Aside from the fact that these predictions can only be speculative, would increased alcohol prices really put people off? I doubt that they would.
Petrol prices have risen at a rate of knots in recent years. But people are still filling up their tanks and driving their cars in their numbers.
By increasing the cost of alcoholic drinks, I think the government would have little or no impact on consumption rates, but could inadvertently encourage black-market booze operations to be established.
Another concern that I have is that if alcohol becomes more expensive to buy, people are less likely to drink regularly in moderation and more likely to save their precious pennies for a fortnightly binge, which is much more dangerous.
There is also the little-publicised fact that alcohol consumption in Britain has been falling every year since 2002.
That’s because people are intelligent enough to work out the risks and moderate their behaviour – without being forced to do so by people who we elected to run the country, not inspect the contents of our shopping trolleys.
Everybody knows how dangerous life can be. They make their own choices about how to respond to that, and have to live with the consequences.
I put on a seatbelt when travelling in a car because I know that it is the right thing to do – not because meddling bureaucrats tell me to.
I lock my car when I leave it unattended because I don’t want someone to nick my stereo – not because the police have come up with a punchy catchphrase.
A cheaply-made public information advert with a blindingly obvious message and the pretend-grave voice of an actor will not change my ways.
I refrain from drinking bucketloads of strong beer or spirits because I know that it is not good for me, makes me feel like death for up to 48 hours afterwards and encourages me to do things that are out of character – like smile, be sociable and dance.
In life, we learn from our mistakes.
A few pence on a bottle of cider isn’t going to put people off alcohol – any more than a lecture from mum, dad, a medic or a teacher will do the trick.
The most effective way is to find out the effects for yourself.
Cider nearly killed me once. And ever since, I cannot so much as smell the stuff without feeling nauseous. And vodka made me aggressive. As I am both a coward and totally inept at fighting, I soon gave that the cold shoulder.
Ultimately, though, I think people object to being lectured about how they live.
While there are plenty of people who drink to the point of self-destruction, the vast majority of people simply like a glass of reasonably-priced red wine or a whisky to wind down in the evening.
With the cost of living rocketing, wages stagnating and the economic outlook misty with a chance of murk, is this the time to force people to pay more for one of life’s small pleasures?
posted on 22 February 2011 09:27 bySteve Downes