Friday, January 22, 2010

Action on alcohol

Lets face it – alcohol is extremely popular with the vast majority of people but it’s a drug, albeit legal and non-prescription, which affects every organ in the human body and changes behaviour to threaten life and health. Alcohol has all the risks of addiction and illness of illegal drugs and indeed some prescription drugs. The huge and growing alcohol problem has been well illustrated by recent widespread news reports eg ‘Bristol’s got a drink problem’ front page headline and ‘Alcohol’s cheap - and now we’re all paying the price’ (Post, 18 January).

It may not be popular with some, perhaps many, but its right that we take action on alcohol to prevent abuse and promote responsibility. I agree with calls to crackdown on the sale of cheap alcohol, with better controls and a minimum price per unit of alcohol, though our Government has been criticised for being too close to the drinks industry and not listening enough to advice from Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer. We should really bring in a complete ban on the promotion of alcohol products, including sponsorship, direct or indirect advertising and product placement on remuneration or reward.

The tax levied on alcohol products should be in proportion to the amount of alcohol in the finished product. The effect of alcohol tax levels on alcohol consumption should be reviewed continually and should inform decisions on increasing taxation.

The net profits of companies producing alcohol for consumption, and the dividends paid to shareholders of these companies should attract a significantly higher rate of taxation than now.

The additional money from higher alcohol taxation should be used to fund expanded health and education programs which should be targeted at those at highest risk of harming themselves and others and at changing drinking culture. Additional funds for policing in key problem areas could also be made available. Penalties for drunk and disorderly behaviour and driving whilst under the influence of alcohol should be increased and the permitted alcohol to blood ratio of drivers should be reduced.

Serving alcohol in smaller measures should be on offer. Suppliers should be required to provide clearer and accurate information about the unit alcohol content. Both these and other measures would help to facilitate more responsible drinking of alcohol.

Glenn Vowles, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol East


Further information on alcohol and health:


  1. Sadly alcohol has become the next whipping boy for the heath lobby now smoking has been boxed in. In this they have a compliant Labour & Conservative party who are willing to ride along the Daily Mail narrative of 'drunken broken Britain' to gain votes.

    The problem is that they are using fudged data in their desparation to prove the point.

    Easy examples of this are that the government's own data shows we are drinking less than we have done in the last 10 years, this is reflected in 2,000 fewer pubs since 2000. As a green, surely you should be more worried about the sharp decline of these sustainable local meeting spaces.

    Quoted liver deaths are all attributed to alcohol by the health lobby, however dig a little deeper and alcohol contributes to just a fraction of these deaths.

    Go to Pete Browns Beer Blog
    for a fairly forensic disection of the health lobby's arguments.

  2. The stats on alcohol problems are pretty frightening - whether on health, road safety or crime/disorder....I think you're on very weak ground by arguing over the stats (click the link at the end of my blog post for official stats details). In Bristol 25% of paramedic call-outs are drink related and the Director of Public Health says that alcohol is a factor in 9000 Bristol hospital admissions a year, costing the NHS in the city £4million....

    I agree with you on the value of local pubs though - and I've campaigned hard on this issue in Knowle. They can and should be kept open and can be a part of a responsible drinking culture - they are important for it in fact. Cheap alcohol in supermarkets and in clubs is where the problem is at its worst I think. I'm for good quality real ale, cider, wine etc consumed in moderation, served in good local surroundings, family atmosphere, perhaps live music sometimes, perhaps with some decent food too...We are a very long way from this situation I'm afraid.

  3. The drinks industry has been showing YOY declines in volume since 2004 and the governments duty receipts demonstrate this, however I agree with you something needs to be done with people abusing alcohol, but minimum pricing and taxing alcohol out of the affordability of most people will not work.

    Those people who abuse alcohol just want to 'get off their heads' and will simply move onto the next cheapest stimulant. So increase alcohol prices and expect an increase in people blinding themselves with meths and knocking themselves out with solvents.

    Rather than proposing measures that would harm one of the last viable manufacturing industries in the south west (cider), the target as a prospective MP is to ask why are so many peoples lives so miserable that they feel the need to abuse alcohol or other substances.

    Attack the cause of alcohol abuse, not the effects!!

  4. Cant agree with you on not raising alcohol taxation and prices. I do agree with you about tackling causes which is why I said in my original post 'The additional money from higher alcohol taxation should be used to fund expanded health and education programs which should be targeted at those at highest risk of harming themselves and others and at changing drinking culture.'

    Prices and taxation levels are part of the means we can use to change culture through health and education programs - they supply vital funding. I'd like to see a similar approach taken to other substances people abuse to artificially stimulate or suppress themselves.

    The whole green agenda is about increasing people's wellbeing and quality of life - good quality, local work, strong local communities, individual and community empowerment...If this was successful people would not turn to drug abuse (or at least not so much). Something is very wrong with a society said to be progressing (or at least having more money growth) but with so many people choosing to drug themselves out of this world.

  5. I should add that in the kind of drinking culture I'd like to see local and regional products like cider and real ales would be boosted not put into decline. Higher alcohol taxation need not adversely affect the cider industry.


Genuine, open, reasonable debate is most welcome. Comments that meet this test will always be published.