Vice Squad
Monday, March 15, 2004
Alcohol Policy in England

The British government released a report (100 page pdf file here; a short summary from the Guardian here) today concerning alcohol regulation in England -- devolution meaning that Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are producing their own strategies, though with consultation across the UK. The main issues of concern are binge drinking and chronic heavy drinking, though underage (under 18) drinking is also addressed. Britain's level of alcohol consumption is rather middling for European countries, but it has been rising for the last few decades, and underage drinking is high in Britain relative to Europe.

The report is quite comprehensive, looking at a wide spectrum of alcohol-related behaviors and policies. It is refreshing in its lack of hysteria, its overall good sense -- no proclamations of a great crisis, no demonizing of producers or pub owners, even as it calls for better self-policing within the industry. The report does not look to higher taxes as a method of reducing consumption (despite a recent call (42-page pdf here) for substantial alcohol price increases from the independent Academy of Medical Sciences.) Among the policies that it does call for are more use of individual-specific bans (from certain pubs or even town centres) for those who have behaved badly under the influence in the past, and increased oversight of advertising to ensure that it does not target youths or "glamorise irresponsible behaviour." And OK, there is something akin to a tax, where the industry is expected to provide funds (in an unspecified manner) to help combat alcohol-related harms. All-in-all, a quick reading suggests that this report is well informed and reasonable.

Perhaps not coincidentally, a short item, "Why Alcohol is Addictive," was put out by the BBC today.

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