Roll out the barrel, we hear a barrel of lies
Roll out the barrel, they’ve got the ads on the run
Zing, boom, tararrel, ring out a song of good cheer
Now’s the time to stop the fun, for the Stalinesque gang is here
With apologies to Andrew Sisters.
I shall not be the first, and by no means the last, to point out the nonsensical links being made between alcohol advertising and the current rage for binge drinking in the UK. I have no doubt that foremost in the rush to rubbish this claim will be anyone with even a loose affiliation with France.
France is a country awash with alcohol. Cheap alcohol. Alcohol that is available in outlets inconceivable in the UK. (Even my hairdresser has a nifty display of her brother’s famed Vin blanc.) Alcohol that is available at any time of the day or night – bars have to close for one hour out of every 24 hours, but they don’t all need to close at the same time. Natch!, you just move to the bar next door. Alcohol is promoted at every opportunity. It is subsidised, worshipped, advertised, promoted, given away, its famed makers are held up as celebrities, it’s farmers are given special dispensation to make a form of alcohol – ‘Eau de Vie’ – that is something like 70° proof for their own enjoyment, children are taught which is the best wine to accompany their food………
In all the years I have lived here, I have only once since a drunk rolling in the gutter – and he was an Englishman on holiday. It may happen, I can only report that I have never seen it so.
Not only so, but the French drink more alcohol per head of population than the British. 14.2 litres as against the British languishing at No 12 in the league of these things, with a paltry 10.4 litres per head of population. If the findings of the Alcohol Health Alliance, who have endorsed this specious BMA document which has so gladdened the hearts of the puritans were true, there should be half as many again of drunken Frenchmen rolling in the gutter. There patently aren’t, so something is adrift.
Take a look at the nine point plan being promoted by the BMA – such a weighty tome it took all of four minutes to download even with France’s famed high speed ASDL!:
1. Implement and rigorously enforce a comprehensive ban on all alcohol marketing communications
2. Establish minimum price levels for the sale of alcoholic products
3. Increase the level of excise duty paid on alcohol above the rate of inflation and rationalise the current taxation system so that it is accurately linked to alcoholic strength for all products
4. Regulate the availability of alcoholic products through a reduction in licensing hours for on and off-licensed premises
5. Commission further independent research and evaluation of sales practices, covering all aspects of industry marketing (including that of producers, distributors and supermarkets). This should be used to inform, and where appropriate, strengthen the current regulatory system
6. Ensure that the density of alcohol outlets is taken into account in planning or licence applications, and where necessary, introduce legislative changes to ensure these factors are considered
7. Assess the impact on public health of the changes to licensing legislation in the UK, and in particular the emergence of pubcos
8. Undertake a full audit of the market, and consider ways to prohibit any products that either appeal to young people more than adults, or are particularly associated with problematic drinking
9. Introduce a compulsory levy on the alcohol industry with which to fund an independent public health body to oversee alcohol-related research, health promotion and policy advice. The levy should be set as a proportion of current expenditure on alcohol marketing, index linked in future years.
In respect of every one of these recommendations, French policy is diametrically opposed, and has been for years. Did these self styled experts never look across the Chanel? No drunks rolling in the aisles here!
Yes, there is a problem of alcoholism here, and of drunk driving. In respect of alcoholism, I accept that wives and family may well suffer collateral damage, ditto there is collateral damage from drunk driving, and I don’t seek to diminish either – but apart from those provisos, I would suggest that amongst the main differences are that the French en masse:
Go out of their way to avoid causing annoyance or disturbance to other people. It is a matter of self respect, and respect for others. You won’t instill that in the UK population, young or old, by further legislation.
Virtually all the population drink in moderation – so the average per capita figures are more evenly balanced. In the UK it seem to be the case that a few people are pushing up the per capita levels.
Have a different attitude to alcohol – it is seen as as necessary adjunct to food, not a means to become insensate. Hence the French tend to have one or two glasses of wine when they are eating – you would not dream of offering a Frenchman alcohol without some food, even a bowl of peanuts, alongside. The British seem to look upon drinking alcohol as an entertainment in its own right.
Moreover, not just an entertainment, but a slightly ‘naughty’ thing that they are ‘entitled’ to do after being ‘good’ all week – surely this can only be part and parcel of the legacy of the Puritan movement.
Which brings us full circle – how on earth does further demonising alcohol expect to remove its allure to young people, who are perennially attracted to forbidden goods?
Discuss – in sober fashion!