makes a comeback
hanged a monkey in Hartlepool for espionage, so perhaps we shouldn’t
read too much into the town’s latest legislative eccentricity. But
it’s still a worry. For the first time in 10 years somebody’s been
banned from buying alcohol under the 1902 Licensing Act and legally labeled
a ‘drunkard’ as defined by the 1898 Inebriates Act. If she tries to
buy drink she risks a £200 fine while the pub or off license selling it
to her could be fined £500.
Leaving aside the practical difficulties of enforcing this, what on
earth is it going to achieve? It’s an alarming throwback to a period
when the solution to those unfortunates with an intractable alcohol
problem – then termed inebriates - was to lock them up in an
It was also a time when the temperance movement was at its height and
exerting political pressure to restrict the supply of alcohol in
general. Just as the health lobby is doing today.
Meanwhile, a House of Commons committee today reports than only one in
18 people with an alcohol dependency is getting help from the NHS.
Also today, a think tank is recommending a more relaxed approach to the
supply of illegal drugs. This is because prohibition doesn’t work and
only causes society problems – more crime and a stigmatisation of
drugs that means addicts won’t come forward for help.
There has been a growing realisation of this in the drugs field where
‘harm reduction’ is now the dominant strategy. Strangely, alcohol
policy is moving in the opposite direction. While the government clings
to an alcohol harm reduction strategy, it’s under massive pressure to
do something about consumption reduction through restricting
availability by, for instance, increasing price. You might call it
partial prohibition. The Scottish Government already makes explicit its
aim to reduce consumption across the population and is leading the world
in plans for minimum pricing.
It’s hard to
object – if it’s going to work. But our experience with illegal
drugs may have a lesson for us there.
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