latest update OCT 4th 2010

JANUARY 16th 2005
The sooner we get this pathetic business over the better. We are moving by necessity towards a partial 24hr society. There is no way this can be reversed. In other parts of Europe this does not present a problem with the opening and closing of bars that sell alcoholic drinks, because they have not been subject to regulations that insist on the opening and closing times. In the UK, the simultaneous closing of pubs and clubs has become a serious problem now that the effects of women's lib, globalisation and a newly enriched sector of the community have brought economic and social freedom to millions with insufficient education, training and natural good sense to handle it. But they can and will learn.

There is no doubt that a side effect of liberalising the licensing hours will cause some new problems in some areas. But this can then be dealt with by shutting down the premises that serve drunks who cause problems. This should be done quickly and summararily, for a limited period, after which they should be given the chance, if they make a case for it, to reopen and function properly. If they fail after the second attempt it would seem they are not a runner.

One thing is clear: the status quo, where people whose jobs end at e.g. 11pm can't meet after work for a social drink, yet local communities suffer from rowdy gangs of drunks in the street, is completely unacceptable. Of course as usual those who resist change or intervention think they can avoid the blame for unacceptable events that are the result of doing nothing. The government must bite the bullet and take the consequences - that means the blame for what goes wrong and the credit for what goes right. The British public must grow up and learn how to behave in public places. If they want to get drunk they can do it at home.

APRIL 4th 2005


A new blitz on Britain's binge drinking culture is under way with plans to fine bar staff who serve drunken customers coming into force.

Underage drinkers are also targeted in the Government crackdown.

Under-18s will face a £50 charge and bar staff who serve drunken customers could be hit with an £80 on-the-spot fine under the new measures.

Home Office Minister Hazel Blears said: "We want to see a culture change where a young person attempting to buy alcohol accepts that being asked for ID is the norm.

"These two new penalty notices will help local police tackle underage drinking and irresponsible selling which we know cause problems with alcohol-fuelled disorder."

During the last three weeks of last December, police and trading standards officers found 32 per cent of off-licences selling to under-18s.

Well, that's one way of tackling the short term possible downside of liberalisation, going for individuals rather than establishments. It corresponds with the new idea of acting against individual fraudsters instead of just closing down companies (when the same person can just start a new one).  In this case though it could be employees rather than owners of premises in most cases. It's a bold idea. May be it has been well thought through...

FEBRUARY 7th 2006
The first verdict on the changes in the law indicate that they have been a success. I am not surprised. There is also scope for refinement and improvement in the application, so we can look forward to further progress. But it is early days. To reverse the trend in overdrinking is something else.

NOVEMBER 20th 2006
The following news in today's Independent is not in their online version. Why? It means anyone searching for any of the words in it would not find this text:

24-hour drinking cuts city violence
Violence has fallen "significantly" in Norwich since all-night drinking laws were introduced a year ago, Norfolk police said. Weekend assaults dropped from 101  in 2005 to 31 in 2006. The chief constable of Norfolk Carole Howlett said in October that drinkers were no longer gathering at night at the same time.

Right, now we can start to differentiate between the places where it has got better and where it has not but needs to.

In the latter, establishments that serve drunks can be fined heavily. If that does not produce a result, the fines can go towards building some of the new prisons we need and the drinkers and suppliers of drink can be accommodated therein.

This policy would be unbelievably easy to implement. It would be based on video evidence only. Pick establishments that are causing trouble, video the people coming out. If there is violence, there is the evidence. Fine the establishment £1000 per violent drunk they turn out (£500 for a first offence). They can then either refuse future admission to these individuals or make sure they drink less. Their choice. They need not even take the case to court unless they want to.

Well that's better. The Independent today has come out with a double page spread and a leader backing the new drink laws, based on the news and the evidence. But the leader also ends on the theme it was right to trust the people, and not treat them like children. No, it has worked by using simple psychology and treating the trouble-makers like the children they are, while ceasing to annoy the grownups. Perhaps we could look at the same approach to motorists and stop penalising safe drivers while the idiots cause havoc.

MARCH 15th 2009

'Passive drinking' is blighting the nation, Sir Liam Donaldson warns

The nation is blighted by 'passive drinking' as the damage caused by drink drivers, domestic violence, crime and anti-social behaviour means innocent bystanders bear the brunt of the problem, Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, has warned. He recommended setting a minimum price per unit of alcohol at 50p and tightening licensing laws so local authorities had to consider the deaths and ill-health due to alcohol in the area before granting new licenses for pubs or clubs.

The CMO is right. He has been accused of interfering in politics and suggesting a scheme that would penalise responsible drinkers. Not so.

Donaldson's suggestion for a minimum retail price based on the units of alcohol would only significantly raise the price of alcoholic drinks being sold below the cost of production, either as loss leaders to draw in customers to supermarkets, or as promotions, or dumping by producers who have to move the stuff for cash flow reasons or to aim for economy of scale depending on binge drinking of e.g. low quality wine.

All of the above are 'market distortions', so the argument that Donaldson's suggested measures would distort the market are not tenable, they would reduce distortion.

The argument that he should keep out of politics and economics and stick to medical advice is ridiculous - his job is to talk about health in the political and economic context. Decisions are then taken by parliament with the executive branch as a whole playing its full role. The Prime Minister has (rightly) announced that he does not want well behaved drinkers penalised. That needed to be said.

As Donaldson explained, the PM is a busy man and the public and politicians do not yet appreciate the real detail of the suggested regulation or its effect.  They will get the message

The headline below ought to be DOCTORS LOSE MARBLES.
I would be the first to agree that our society has a monstrous problem at the moment, with some young people running amok while others are showing us the finest example any generation has ever produced. It has always been the case that any part of nature's bounty, when made available to humans at a cost such that they can enjoy its pleasures but over-consume if they lack either self discipline or that of society, will sort out the sheep from the goats. The present problems are not correctable by removing the danger. Quite the reverse! The problem lies in the homes, schools and laws of our country. We should be very grateful of the canary in the cage that shows us that if we do not change our ways, our society will face a sick or violent reckoning or both.

I have set out in previous entries here and elsewhere what needs to be done. Advertising various alcoholic drinks through sponsorship of popular sports is probably the very best way they can be advertised, though supporting good TV content is not bad either. It is vital that our youth should be exposed to every temptation under the sun, at the earliest age that is relevant to them. They can perfectly easily be given the advice and help and where necessary control to give them a fair chance of handling it. They are not being given that, and that is what has to change.

I respect Prof. Hastings, his reseach and methods, but he is apparently out of his depth here completely. He has been very helpful in getting us to the point where point-of-sale loss leaders in alcohol and other subsidised sales can be stopped. This would be counterproductive.

As for what the advertisers themselves say, that the advertising makes people choose between brands, that is true. If Magners had not employed brilliant advertising and sales technique advice to the places it is sold, nobody on earth would have switched the tasteless muck they sell as cider.

Doctors want booze marketing ban
By Nick Triggle
Health reporter, BBC News

There should be a ban on all alcohol advertising, including sports and music sponsorship, doctors say.

The British Medical Association said the crackdown on marketing was needed, along with an end to cut-price deals, to stop rising rates of consumption.

The industry spends £800m a year on promoting drinks - just a quarter of which goes on direct advertising.

Doctors said action was essential as alcohol was now one of the leading causes of early death and disability.

Only smoking and high blood pressure is responsible for a greater burden of disease, according to the World Health Organization.

  • Carling lager - Sponsors the football league cup in England and also has deals for shirt sponsorship of Celtic and Rangers in Scotland
  • John Smith's - Title sponsor of the Grand National plus other race days at the majority of UK racecourses
  • Magners Irish Cider - Sponsors two British rugby unions teams as well as Irish, Scottish and Welsh leagues
  • Johnnie Walker whisky - Sponsors of Formula One team McLaren
  • The cost to the NHS for treating injury and illness linked to drink has been estimated to be anything up to £3bn a year in the UK.

    It comes as alcohol consumption has been rising rapidly in recent years with over a third of adults now drinking above the recommended amounts.

    But the report said there was particular concern about the impact of marketing on young people.

    The report points out that while the money spent on alcohol advertising - nearly £200m a year - remained significant, there had been a growth in more subtle types of marketing.

    The alcohol industry had, in particular, become a major sponsor of sports events - second only to the finance sector in terms of overall funding.

    But the report also highlighted merchandising, competitions and loyalty schemes as influential forms of marketing that needed to be tackled.

    And as well as calling for the outright ban marketing and advertising, the BMA said there needed to be a reduction in licensing hours and tougher rules in place on price.

    The doctors' body once again reiterated its call for minimum pricing to be introduced to help combat promotions such as happy hours and two-for-one purchases and higher levels of tax.


    Minimum pricing has already been proposed in Scotland, and the chief medical officers in all the other UK nations have signalled their approval for such a move.

    But so far the Department of Health has resisted such calls, preferring to encourage the industry to sign up to voluntary codes to encourage responsible drinking.

    However, it has signalled its intention to push through legislation to stop cut-price promotions if necessary.

    Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of science and ethics, said: "The BMA is not anti-alcohol. As doctors our focus is to ensure that individuals drink sensible so they do not put their health and lives in danger."

  • Excessive consumption is linked to 60 different medical conditions, including liver and brain damage, some cancers and other diseases such as stroke and heart disease
  • The cost to the NHS for treating injury and illness linked to alcohol is estimated at anything up to £3bn a year
  • But the costs to the wider economy are even greater with loss of productivity said to be more than £7bn a year
  • Alison Rogers, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said the report put a "compelling case for change".

    "Alcohol is now marketed as a staple part of our diet in the UK.

    "The way it is advertised, positioned in stores and its sheer cheapness leads people into feeling that buying and consuming large amounts of alcohol regularly is just the same as life's essentials like bread and milk."

    And Don Shenker, of Alcohol Concern, added: "There's no longer any doubt - the heavy marketing and promotion of alcohol, combined with low prices - are encouraging young people to drink at a level our health services are struggling to cope with."

    But the Department of Health said its current approach was working, saying measures such as the £10m Know Your Limits public health campaign to encourage responsible drinking were having an impact.

    A spokesman added: "We're working harder than ever to reduce alcohol harm — but it's not always right to legislate. We take all evidence into account and react proportionately."

    Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said the measures proposed by the BMA would hit the pockets of millions of consumers and threaten the livelihoods of thousands of people working in the drinks industry, media, advertising and television.

    He said: "Britain already has amongst the highest taxes on alcohol in Europe.

    "It should be obvious by now that higher taxation and higher prices don't curb alcohol misuse.

    "The drinks industry is funding a major campaign to change drinking patterns amongst young adults.

    "We believe culture change is more likely to be achieved through long term education and tough enforcement."

    OCTOBER 4th 2010
    Now at last, since we are putting people in jail for drug use, it is recognised that it is there they must be treated.

    The Charity RAPT has been doing good work in prisons for nearly 20 years. In the last decade it's success and achievements have become established. Now at last it seems public recognition may lead to an expansion of its services.

    Before 'Prison' can 'work', there has to be a way to convert them from colleges of crime and drug dealing to a place where it is understood we truly do have a 'captive audience' who can be inspired and changed with the right instruction.

    In 1991 RAPt started as the Addicted Diseases Trust when Peter Bond, a recovering alcoholic, observed the success of abstinence-based programmes in the United States. He, Jonathan Wallace and RAPt trustee Michael Meakin, set up a charity to meet the needs of drug addicts in UK prisons. Jonathan passed on only recently. You can read the history here:
    and here is the story today in The Independent