As night follows day, so alcohol follows tobacco.
Bans on advertising and sponsorship? Warning labels? Restriction on sales? Does this sound familiar to anyone?
I have been giving the subject a little thought. The first thing that crossed my mind is that tobacco and alcohol are completely different ballgames. Smoking tends to be a solo occupation, in that it is the decision by one person to light up and that's that. When did anyone agree to meet his or her mates for a night of cigarettes? Alcohol on the other hand tends to be far more of a social occasion, and the solo drinker tends to be in a small minority.
What is the significance of solo versus social? Quite a lot. When two or more people meet for a drink, cost is not a significant factor. No one wants to be seen as tight fisted so when it comes to buying a round, people will complain inwardly but will still fork up the cash. It will be a case of whether a person values friendship over a few extra pence from the purse. Socialising is a very important aspect of life so people are prepared to pay the price, and are hardly going to forgo it because of a few "warning labels".
Another aspect of alcohol over tobacco is that alcohol is a mood altering substance. It tends to diminish inhibitions so that after a glass or two, people just aren't going to worry about price. Likewise I can imagine that by that stage those "warning labels" are going to become items of ridicule rather than a harbinger of doom.
Alcohol is a good thing. It has health benefits and is central to the social life of many. People are well aware of the problems that alcohol can cause – alcoholism, violence, binge drinking and so on. Adding a few pence to the price of drink will have no impact whatsoever on those problems. Equally any warning labels are going to be ignored, just as smokers ignore the shrill meaningless images on their packs. The alcoholic is hardly likely to go on the wagon because of price, and the idea of going sober because of a few "warning labels" is ludicrous.
Minimum pricing will not work. And while the gubmint will doubtless torture statistics to "prove" that it has, they will start introducing extra measures. Plain packaging? Heavy restriction on outlets? And of course heavy tax and excise increases way above inflation levels, all designed "for the good of our health".
None of the proposed measures will have any affect whatsoever [apart from giving drinkers a taste of what us smokers have had to put up with].
If the gubmint wants to tackle binge drinking and alcohol abuse, instead of nannying and bullying people they should spend some time addressing the cause of these. Why do people drink so much [not that they do, but the gubmint thinks they do]? Could it be that they just want to escape for a brief while from the burden of everyday lives? Do they just want to forget for a while about the bills, the heavy mortgage and the ever increasing taxes? Have they had enough of the mess that successive gubmints have landed on their shoulders?
It's easier to nag.