Sunday, 13 June 2010

Missing the point about minimum pricing of alcohol

I've just been watching BBC's The Big Questions and they were discussing minimum pricing of alcohol. There were two points I wanted to pick up on.

The first was presenter Kaye Adam's assertion that Scotland had rejected it. Scotland has not rejected minimum pricing. Opposition MSPs in the Scottish Parliament rejected the minimum price aspect of stage one of the bill. They are not Scotland. And the bill still has two further stages to go through. The SNP government will not give up on this one, it is far too important. And right across Scotland all sorts of experts on alcohol abuse are in support of it. If opposition MSPs can be convinced to drop their stupid game playing and actually listen to the evidence from around the world then we can get it through the parliament.

Secondly they interviewed a 37 year old guy who is an alcoholic who no longer drinks alcohol. When they asked him would increasing the price of cheap alcohol have stopped him drinking earlier he said no. But he was missing the point. Or rather, the presenter was missing the point. Nobody starts out life as an alcoholic. Nobody starts out their alcohol drinking life as an alcoholic. It is a process. A better question might have been did he think less access to cheap alcohol when he first started to experience it could have stopped him using it in such a way that lead to him becoming addicted.

I don't believe the minimum pricing argument is about people who are currently addicted to alcohol. I believe it's primarily about 3 sets of people - future alcoholics, future alcohol abusers and current alcohol abusers. When you're addicted to something you'll make "sacrifices" to get it. I used to smoke. I smoked when I was signing on. I wore shoes with holes in the soles because I preferred to spend money on my addiction.

Dealing with actual alcohol addiction is a different matter and whilst minimum pricing will factor into that, it's only one of a number of ways in which it can be tackled.

Where it will make a significant difference is in changing our drinking culture and our attitudes to alcohol and thus reducing the likelihood of people developing problems with alcohol, either through abuse or addiction, in the first place.

Earlier this year I wrote this post called A Tale of Two Cousins - about my cousin and her cousin, both addicted to alcohol, one dead, one surviving and sometimes thriving. The latter is writing a post for this blog about her experiences and I hope to publish it soon.

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