Photo: vissago / Flickr
If you’ve been in London or a provincial British town at the weekend (ok, scratch that, any night of the week), you might have cottoned on to the fact that the way the British drink is slightly different than the way the rest of Europe drinks.It’s a country where people run into pubs wielding chainsaws, for example, and newspapers constantly complain of the problem of “Booze Britain”. The British government believes that this alcohol problem costs Britain between £17 billion ($26 billion) and £22 billion ($34 billion) every year.
The BBC reports that later today British Prime Minister David Cameron will make a visit to a hospital in North East England, where he will announce new plans to curb this problem.
“Over the last decade we’ve seen a frightening growth in the number of people — many under-age — who think it’s acceptable for people to get drunk in public in ways that wreck lives, spread fear and increase crime,” Cameron will announce in a speech.
“This is one of the scandals of our society and I am determined to deal with it.”
The announcement has received a large amount of coverage in the UK press, but will it amount to much?
Details will include the use of US-style “drunk tanks” that would allow drunk members of the public to be detained without being charged. A ban on the sale of alcohol below cost sale of alcohol below cost price – less than the tax paid on it — is also due to be announced.
MPs are thought to be working towards a minimum price for alcohol.
The problem, the government says, is influencing the behaviour of the relatively small minority of British drinkers who drink the majority of the alcohol. This requires help from parents and the alcohol industry as well.
Anne Milton, the under-secretary for health, told the BBC this morning (via the Telegraph):
We are drinking too much. It has to be said that over half the population drink less than three times a week, 15 per cent of the population abstain. But of those that are drinking above the guidelines, that’s about 9 million people, they are drinking about just under three quarters of the alcohol consumed in this country. That’s a huge amount of alcohol being consumed by quite a small but significant proportion.
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