The drug of choice that costs and kills

As readers of my blog know well I am not always a great supporter of things that David Cameron says BUT I am 100% behind him on the need to put an end to the misery caused by senseless over drinking and that part of an answer to that misery is minimum pricing.

Some have tried to turn this into a toffs v chavs debate because responsible drinkers who are poor will be disproportionately hit. There is some merit in that argument which is why I think that pricing is only part of the answer, but the facts are that alcohol costs more lives, creates more ill health and has a greater strain on public and private finance than any other drug. It is surely obscene that supermarkets using booze as a loss leader charge less for alcohol than they do for water.

So let me be clear – I am a drinker. I might well in some weeks have a bit a more than my recommended 21 units. Other weeks I have considerably less – it really depends on how many boring evening events I have to go to! So I like a drink. I have had a drink since when at the age of 7 my father put about a tablespoon full of beer into a tumbler of lemonade. I don’t want to stop anyone having a nice drink and it adding a little pleasure to their lives whenever or however they take their drug of choice.

What I do want to stop is:

  • People especially women dying in their mid 30s with liver problems that used to arise in men in their 60s.
  • Disgraceful scenes on the streets of all our towns and cities on Friday and Saturday nights with our Police officers placed inappropriately at the front end of clearing up the mess
  • High costs to our Health Service with A & E being hell on earth on some nights with our nursing and medical staff having to be protected by security staff.
  • High costs to councils from having to cellar up the mess and filth left by many revellers
  • High costs to individuals and companies who lose pay and income with staff unable to report for work to carry out their duties.

But pricing is only part of the solution. Other part solutions that I have include:

  • People with drunk and disorderly convictions being given community service clearing up our towns and cities
  • People convicted of drink driving being made to do community service inside an A& E or more likely a recuperative unit to see the lives lost and the bodies broken by drink
  • More education in schools of the effects of drink and how heavy drinking whilst young can lead to shortened lives
  • Community control of high streets and district centres to ensure that it is local people not incomers who decide if and what licensed premises should be allowed.

When I asked on my Twitter account who supported minimum pricing 80% were in favour, 10% weren’t sure and 10% were against. This is a simple policy measure that could be introduced quickly and would start saving lives and cash almost immediately. It is heavily supported by the medical professions. It would level the playing field and allow small local shops to compete on price terms with the big chains. It would return all our town and city centres to be used by the majority not just by the minority. Let’s just get on and do it now.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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