Paying the price for our booze-fuelled nation

Lancashire Evening Post head of content Blaise Tapp
Lancashire Evening Post head of content Blaise Tapp
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Boasting about one’s boozing is something you’d expect from a teenager or a middle-aged man who lives on his own and buys his tea from the Whoops! aisle at Asda.

While I am not going to out myself as an immature loner with a penchant for discounted meat products I must confess (not for the first time) to the fact that I like a drink. It is true to say my alcohol intake has diminished significantly since I became a father but I still enjoy a good old session whenever the opportunity arises.

I do not see anything wrong with getting pie-eyed occasionally as I am firmly of the belief that is an Englishman’s home is his castle then his local is his playpen. So it has come as something of a surprise to every poor sod with whom I keep an acquaintance that for the past few days or so I have been extolling the virtues of Government plans to slap a minimum price on alcohol.

I have never been a fan of the Nanny State but I think charging a minimum of 45p per unit of alcohol is the only way we can begin to stop this booze loving nation of ours from being the George Best of Europe. Opponents of the move (and there are many) say minimum pricing will have little effect on the nation’s old soaks and lushes and will only succeed in hitting ‘sensible’ drinkers in the pocket.

It is unfair, they say, as why should the masses be penalised for the actions of a irresponsible few? The fact is the demon drink costs the UK tens of billions, and although I usually trust official ‘cost’ figures as much as Sally Bercow’s lawyers trust her with Twitter, I choose to believe these.

If you have had the misfortune to visit the accident and emergency department of any hospital you will have almost certainly shared a waiting room with either a stinking old drunk or a youngster who has overdone it on a brightly-coloured drink. I speak from some experience as I have been one of those annoying patients once as a shamefully young teen who consumed more vodka in an evening than a Russian sailor in a fortnight’s shore leave.

My second drink-related appearance in A and E came a decade later as a result of a stag do ‘injury’. While the treatment I received on both occasions was first class it was impossible for me not to pick up vibes from the over-worked staff that they felt they could be better employed with other, sober, patients. It is claimed 2,000 lives will be saved over 10 years if this unpopular measure is adopted – a statistic which I think is a worthwhile aim. Of course the cost of boozing to this nation doesn’t just stop with the NHS as alcohol is responsible for much crime, which pro-minimum price campaigners, say will reduce as a result. The chances are minimum pricing will never happen as the Scottish proposal is facing a legal challenge. But if making me pay extra for a can of loopy juice saves just one life then it will be worth it.