Problem drinking shows up north-south England divisions

Although the headline suggests that there is a division in the toll alcohol has on health in people from the North and South of England, it seems equally clear that the division probably has more to do with relative wealth then geography.

Are there any great surprises there?

Well maybe not but it may come as a surprise that the four worst areas for alcohol related disorder are in London and the south.

Effectively the alcohol related harm may differ across the UK, but in effect it causes problems no matter where you live.

The suggested solution in this article, is once again a minimum price and the government finds it easiest to blame the on-trade for all the woes the country faces in relation to alcohol related harm.

Now I am not saying that I agree with minimum pricing as such, but some form of level playing field needs to be introduced to deal with unfair advantage and muscle the big supermarkets have to sell alcohol at cost or below cost.

The cost to the on-trade, police, local authorities, health service and tax payers, in having to deal with the pre-loading which generates many of the problems for all is significant. If I give you one such example which will be familiar to every owner of a pub, club or bar in the UK.

A customer buys very cheap alcohol in a supermarket or from a booze-cruise and drinks heavily and quickly at home. They go out to a bar or club and the alcohol has not had time to enter the blood-stream, so the door supervisor rightly allows the customer who appears to be sober, entry. The customer has one or two (sometimes none) additional drinks in the premises and due to the pre-loading, within an hour they are very drunk; sometimes leading to disorder.

The door supervisors deal with the situation inside and the police get involved outside, possibly an ambulance is required for the customer themselves, a door supervisor or other member of staff hurt in the disorder; or even another customer who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Whose fault is this and who gets the blame?

  • The Customer – Is likely at worst to get a night in the cells and a small fixed penalty fine, unless they cause serious injury to a second party. Will this put them off next time?
  • The Supermarket – Because the alcohol is not consumed on the premises the blame never gets placed on the supermarket.
  • The Pub / Club – They have had to employ the Door Supervisor, install CCTV, train staff all at significant cost. In our example they have sold the customer two drinks at maybe £5 - £8 with a gross profit of £1.25 - £2 and a net profit of… well a loss really. As well as this loss they are the ones who get the black-mark against their name, they become the statistic where the ‘alcohol related crime occurred’ and therefore face more expensive legislation.

The point is what could the pub / club have done differently? Were they irresponsible, did the selling of two drinks to someone who seemed sober break the law because that person was in fact drunk, although they had yet to demonstrate the symptoms?

What would have happened had they not been there, had they not spent the money on door supervisors, cctv etc? In looking after the injured parties, having door supervisors who intervened, did they not actually minimise the harm that might have occurred? If the pub / club was not there would the customer have stayed sober at home and read a book instead… ok I am going too but you get my point... 

Before we even get into the government arguments that a minimum prices hurts the poor most, does this report not prove that unfortunately poorer areas are at most ‘risk’ and therefore might benefit the most?


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Date – 1st September 2010

Submitted by – Peter Mayhew