The Price of VODKA
The Scottish government announced plans last week to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol – see here for the full story. There has inevitably been a mixed reaction to this. In the context of teenage drinking, I think this is a GOOD THING. Teenage drinking must be a much bigger problem today than it was when I was growing up. And the fact that strong alcohol is relatively so cheap must be a big factor in this. How can it not be? The Scottish government have pointed out that youngsters can get hold of enough alcohol to kill themselves for less than £5.
There was a second piece of related news this week, but it didn’t get quite the same coverage in the press. My attempt not to drink for 4 weeks ended in failure after just 5 days. Not very impressive. The lure of a glass of wine or two on Friday night was too much. I bargained with myself that I was being needlessly ambitious – it isn’t giving up completely that’s the issue, it’s trying to cut down. This might not have persuaded everyone, but it was good enough for me.
Although this has been my lowest drinking week for some time, there is no doubt that I drink too much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a long way from being on the gin by 11.00 a.m. But I have a drink too often – there are probably only 3 nights in an average week when we don’t open a bottle of wine. And once I’ve started, I usually find it hard to stop at one glass. I often end up having extra glasses that I could well do without, especially at the weekend. On a Friday night, I know that I’m often using alcohol to dull the pressures of the working week.
When I was at university, I also had something of a reputation for over-indulgence.
So, is it right that I should take the strong view that I do about teenage drinking? Am I being a hypocrite?
We have a friend with teenage children who says that our generation has to take responsibility for the very poor relationship that our offspring have with booze. She’s obviously right, but if that’s your only view on the subject, then I would say you’re ducking the issue. I hate sounding like a grumpy old man, but you can’t deny that things have changed since we were young.
Teenagers today seem to start getting hold of alcohol when they are about 13 or 14 years old. I don’t remember anyone I knew at that age going anywhere near drink. True, we were able to start sneaking into pubs from about 16, but when we did we were in public and likely not to be served if we drew attention to ourselves in any way. Also, when we did start drinking, it was beer or cider and nothing else. I don’t think I got drunk on spirits until I was about 20. Teenagers today seem to start on spirits, before they’ve learned anything at all about drinking, before they ‘ve any idea about their capacity. And why do they do this? Because it’s easy to transport. Because it gives a bigger and more immediate hit. But most of all, because it’s cheap.
Will minimum pricing cure the problems of teenage drinking by itself? Of course not. Is it completely fair on everyone? Probably not. But I’m convinced that there’s a very strong link between ease of availability and consumption in the teenage world and so I for one hope the idea from Scotland gets exported south (even if I end up paying more for my own habit).