« Theresa May MP: What does this Government actually know? | Main | Graeme Archer: Sex and the Single Woman »



I'm not convinced this stat is particulary helpful.

"a quarter of all men, binge drink at least once each month"

And I'm one of them. I go to a pub in town (short walk for me)and have 4 or 5 pints on average a couple of times a month. But that's *all* I have. The rest of the time I don't drink at all.

I'm not convinced that makes me a particularly heavy drinker (certainly less so than someone who drinks a pint or two on a near daily basis).

As I already pay 2.50 a pint for my beer, including a fair bit of tax, why the hell should I pay more to subsidise idiots who commit crimes when drunk? IIRC the worst I have done when drunk is walk down the street murdering The Red Flag (which I can never remeber the words to when sober!) and typed a few pages of nonsense on t'interweb. That hardly makes me a menance to society.

As the Maggon might have said "Crime is Crime is Crime, it is not drunkness it is Crime"

Put off licence duty up, raise the age limit if you must but leave me the hell alone. I'm not hurting you.

Tony Makara

Binge drinking reflects a fundamental problem in our society. It seems many young people are seeing binge drinking as an escape from the pressures of an increasingly materialistic world. A world in which they are expected to have, to own, to upgrade, to conform. This is escapism, no more, no less. The need to 'Get out of it' needs to be understood. The binge drinking is paradoxically a safety-valve, but in the long-term produces problems of a quite different nature. The side-effect of binge drinking has created its own culture from moronic 'Lads magazines' to the degrading pictures of celebrities, mostly women, in a paralletic state which are circulated in the yellow press every day. Even girls as young as ten are already being groomed ready for this through the 'bratz-culture' which promotes the self-indulgent party lifestyle. How much this binge-drinking reflects the indulgent borrow and spend culture promoted by this Labour government is hard to say, but it is certainly one factor among many.

Paul Oakley

The Calais supermarkets would be very happy if we increased the tax on alcohol. Home drinking is on the rise already as a consequence of the ridiculous smoking ban and British publicans would not thank us for this.


This proposal is wrong in practice and wrong in theory.
You state that a 10% rise in excise duty will reduce alcohol related deaths by 10-30% and back this up with unspecified research. I was always told that any statistic with 10% in it was a lie by definition and this has two 10%. Probably the only reason to accept this idea is to prove this research false and then for the rest of us to sue the researchers and all who have peddled it unthinkingly for fraud and negligence. There has to be retribution against these puritans before they get even more of a stranglehold on our national life.

In answer to the first of your four questions, you should realise that the government positively encourages drunkenness through the benefits system. Probably a quarter of all those on Incapacity benefit have drink or drug addiction as the real reason for their incapacity. The government, or more strictly you and me, are funding their lifestyles. If you want to slam down on alcoholism, don't increase taxes for the rest of us but exclude alcoholics from benefits. People who incapacitate themselves shouldn't get a benefit for doing so. But raising taxes is so much more Conservative, no doubt.


Paradoxically, one major contributory factor to teenage binge drinking is the requirement for over 18 ID for entry to pubs and clubs. There is no cafe culture or youth club alternative so under 18s have nowhere to go. Alcohol is cheap and available at the supermarket so that's where they get it through their mates.

Even if the tax is increased significantly, it will still be relatively cheap to buy booze from the supermarket. Under 18's will continue to acquire supermarket booze to hang out in parks. Once over 18 they will continue to buy their booze in the supermarket to get "happy" before they get to the pub/club.

It would have to be a truly draconian tax to have any real effect.

Dan Hassett

This proposal is an elastoplast to cover the symptoms of deeper social problems which need to be addressed. The arguments put forward are also rather muddled.

If raising tax will reduce consumption, as claimed, it will not raise the additional revenue for treatment! However, I think that's a pretty big if. Petrol duty has been increased year on year, with the same argument about reducing use. It hasn't worked.

Moreover, European countries with lower alcohol prices than us also have less of a drink problem. That's down to attitude to drinking, which is different because youngsters drink with their parents from a younger age. They learn to drink responsibly and alcohol ceases to be the golden prize of attaining adulthood.

One final point. The statment that half of 14-15 year olds and a quarter of adult men binge drink is meaningless. As the BMA points out, "there is no consensus on the definition of binge drinking". My doctor says it's more than 1.5 pints in any single session; my dictionary says it's being drunk for more than 24 hours.

ex CCFer

Yet again we have a member of the Christian Right whose first instinct to tax. This is indicative of an instinct to control rather than promote individual responsibility. Christofascism is as dangerous as Islamofascism. The latter is a threat to your health, the former is a threat to your wealth.

Why should light and responsible drinkers pay more tax to fund the treatment of an irresponsible minority? The answer is to charge binge drinkers, or their parents, for their treatment in A&E.

Mike H

The idea that an extra 7p on a pint of beer will in any way discourage the serious binge drinker is utter nonsense.

If someone is dead-set on regularly spending £50-£100 on a 'good night out', the culmination of which is to end up lying on the pavement, are we expected to believe that 70p (assuming ten pints) of extra tax will prevent this happening?

We already have plenty of laws that can be used to tackle this problem, both by punishing the drinker and the licensees involved.

A few more court appearances, hefty fines and closures of bars would be a better approach.

Simon R

It's a very tricky problem. It is of course those who drink to excess and break the law and/or require medical treatment that should be made to pay. The trouble with charging a bill for medical attention is that it's likely to discourage people from seeking medical help if they need it. Penalties for public vomitting, getting into fights, urinating on the street etc., need to be way higher. There must be consequences.

If there are any duty increases, it should be on sugary alcopops that taste like kids drinks. If people want to get pissed they should be adult enough to drink something that tastes like alcohol. It's not just girls that drink them; guys drink stuff like a bottle of WKD along with a pint of lagher to get wasted more quickly. This shouldn't be a financially attractive option.

Also there should be a Government awareness campaign against binge drinking. I'm pretty sure that guys are beyond help in this regard, as it's a macho thing, but girls might be more receptive if they are told by a glamorous celebrity that it's better to just get mildly buzzed and have a good time than to end the evening over a toilet or worse. The trouble is if this same woman got pictured out on the lash, all the good work would be undone.

Jim Carr

There is absolutely no chance of a rise in taxation having any effect on those who already spend a small fortune on getting comatose.

Why is taxation continually trumpeted as the solution to societal problems. Is it because it is too difficult to actually target the groups causing the problems?

The only people it will adversely affect are those who struggle to budget for a small refreshment at home.

But this is probably the easy target group anyway, given the misleading mish-mash of "statistics" in this article.

Never mind, it will be a good way for Brown to raise even more money from us, along with "green" taxes, to bail out his shambolic government's overspending.

Shame on any Tory who advocates taxational punishment.

Tony Makara

Simon R, I don't believe binge drinking is macho-related, it is more escapism and in many instances a form of self-abuse. These young people are trying to empty their heads of all the worry and anxiety that haunts them through most of the week. The young, that is the under 25's, are under massive pressure these days. They are conditioned into and are expected to have the latest phone, clothes, cars, etc. Many have been allowed to borrow way beyond their limit under this live-now-pay-later Labour government.

These young people are under a great deal of stress, of course those of us who are older have stress too, but the young lack the emotional maturity to deal with that stress. So they find what they believe to be relief in binge-drinking and for a few hours can escape their troubles. What concerns me as much as the binge-drinking is the attitude of our printed press which openly encourages such behaviour by showing wasted celebrities as if to legitimize this behaviour in the eyes of the young. Those who turn to drink in times of trouble are on the road to alcoholism and we must act now to eradicate this problem, which is not wholly caused by the cheap price of drink but has deeper social causes.


Simon R
You're right, alcopops are a real problem - particularly for girls.
When I was younger, girls usually drank halves of lager or spirits. It's hard to get through the quantity of lager required to get completely legless and it's a slow process. Spirits are strong, but expensive and hard to drink - so it takes a while to drink them and in the meantime you can feel them taking effect. Alcopops are so easy to drink and so intoxicating that girls knock them back like fruit juice and go straight into paralytic mode completely missing out that "oops I think I'd better slow down" stage.

John Leonard

Cameron Watt:

A 10% rise in duty could add around 7p to a pint of beer, 15p to a bottle of wine and 25p to a bottle of whisky. Modest rises such as this would not prevent you or me from enjoying a good night out. Yet recent research concludes that even a 10% rise in alcohol taxes could reduce alcohol related deaths by 10-30%. Vulnerable groups drinking excessively, from the street homeless to the teenage bingers on street corners, have limited resources and would have to curb their consumption.


- If people want to drink they will drink
- If kids can't afford alcohol, a percentage will steal or worse to do so.
- It's not a new phenomenon. Binge drinking, alcohol abuse and so forth in this country has been going on for the last 30 years at least from my experience.

For what it's worth I don't buy alcohol in Britain as a norm - it's too expensive. I buy my booze in France.

So I have no financial axe to grind on this. I don't pay these taxes in the first place. I just think its really politically and socially stupid to propose an across the board tax hike.

I also stopped taking notice of the vast volumes of contradictory 'research' and their 'conclusions' years ago.

This tax increase proposal was decimated by the media. It is a clumsy, unintelligent blunt instrument of a proposal that is little more than another unmitigated attack on the taxpayer's pocket. It is the policy of the small minded 'medical jack boot' quite frankly, and will be treated with the contempt it deserves by the electorate.

I wrote a long piece on 'Stand Up Speak Up' (acknowledged by Stephen Crabbe MP) suggesting a wide range of far more targetted measures (including selective taxation) that could be used. The main difference is that many of these require the Alcohol, Entertainment and Retail industries to take social responsibility for the large profits they make from peddling this poison.

Unfortunately, one of the few failings of the Social Justice report was that it ignored its subsidiary reports on alcohol abuse. These had many good alternative recommendations in them. Inexplicably, the final report it solely focussed on this daft idea.

Why is it that the SJ report would rather victimise the taxpayer in such a clumsy manner on this issue, rather than take on the Alcohol and Entertainment industry?

Oh and by the way the consumption of beer in this country is already falling so don't count on raising the necessary funds from this - unless your going to hike up taxes even more.......

Cameron Watt

Thanks for the comments.

Comstock - I don't think that you drinking four pints, twice a month makes you a binge drinker. The additional cost to your monthly entertainment budget caused by a treament tax would only be around £1. I agree that off sales are more of a problem is driving dangerous drinking than pubs. I am sympathetic to the idea that supermarkets and off licences should be banned from selling alocohol as a loss leader.

Paul Oakley - It's true that some, particularly in the south of England, might nip over to Calais a bit more if duty were to increase under a treatment tax. One of the key trends in consumption is that it is now much higher in the north than the south. Northerners - as well as the excessively drinking groups the treament tax would help reduce consumption among - are far less likely to head over to France for cheap booze.

Jonathan - The statistic on the liklely impact of a 10% treatment tax on comsumption is from the Alcohol Health Alliance - a coalition of medical bodies, patient representatives and alcohol health campaigners. Other recent research by the Institute of Alcohol Studies concludes that a 10% rise in alcohol taxes would lower mortality rates by 7% in men and 8% in women. Although that's a significantly smaller cut in consumption, it's still worth having.

ex-CCFer - you are talking nonsense and I am not surprised you are too embarrassed to reveal your real name.

Mike H - the vast majority of the sort of people who are doing themselves most damage through excessive drinking do not have £50 or £100 to blow on a night out. The most vulnerable will restrict themselves to white cider and super strength lager from off sales. To suggest such groups are not influenced by price is simply wrong. Why has cocaine consumption doubled in recent years? There are several factors, but surely the most significant is that it is much cheaper than it used to be. Price drives levels of consumption of most popular legal drug too.

As well as these medical experts and health charities supporting a treatment tax, I should also mention that APCO - the top police officers body, are in favour. Their forces are having to pick up the pieces of this epidemic of excessive drinking day-in, day-out.

Patsy Sergeant

Paul Oakley @ 10.55 - Do you care so much about the 'drinks industry' then??? The 'drinks industry', doesn't give a toss about liver disease, or indeed lung cancer, they only want the tax on alcohol lowered, at least in their pubs, to increase their profits (which are huge anyway).

Jonathan @ 11.56 - your last sentence brands you neatly!!

I hope you would be prepared to deal with alcoholics banned from getting benefits - oh no! of course you probably have nothing to do with anti-social people like that, BUT SOMEBODY WOULD HAVE TO EXAMINE 'habitual drunks' and commit them to no benefits.

Like so many people you think it is so easy for somebody else to do the dirty/hard/dangerous work, just as long as YOU don't have to pay a penny more for YOUR drink AND don't have to put yourself out in any way either!!

ex CCFer - Exactly HOW would you charge drunks of any sort, for the mayhem that they cause in A&E AND WHEN? You could hardly do it at the time, how many of them would have the money??? When they are sober and at home, oh yes?? with all the relatives around them??, how many policemen do you think that would take?? Take them to court, they just don't turn up, and as for 'issuing' them with a fine, that is the biggest cop-out there is, and it is already completely ineffectual!!

So what POSITIVE suggestions do any of you people have that whinge on about spending a bit more on your own drinks???

Mike H

Cameron Wyatt 02:56 PM "Mike H - the vast majority of the sort of people who are doing themselves most damage through excessive drinking do not have £50 or £100 to blow on a night out."

Really? That surprises me. From what I've seen in our town centres, there are plenty of affluent looking people coming out of clubs and bars and falling over.

Why do those establishments still have a licence?

OK, clearly there will be some drinkers for whom the price increase on a can of super-strength lager or white cider will prove a minor disincentive, but the binging problem is not confined to that particular group of drinkers.

As Tony Makara said in an earlier response, the binge drinking culture is a result of deeper problems in our society. Whatever the root cause, over recent times it seems to have become acceptable to drink to excess. You make a comparison with cocaine use and argue that its dropping price has fuelled demand. There is of course some truth in this, but a bigger issue is that, much like excessive drinking, it has somehow become 'acceptable' to use recreational drugs. With regard to drugs, the very term 'recreational use' is part of the problem.

From what I've read, people can drink to excess, collapse in the street, get picked up by the police or an ambulance, and are sent on their way the next morning.

Society needs to show its disapproval of such behaviour- whether it be the abuse of alcohol or the use of illegal drugs. In the case of the former, the offender should receive a hefty fine - not just a night in the cells and a free breakfast.

I still remain to be convinced that a small tax increase will make any material difference to this problem. I'd like to see the root causes (whatever they are) addressed, but until that happens let's ensure that the police and licensing authorities always use the sanctions already at their disposal, rather than imposing an additional tax on the majority of moderate drinkers.


@Patsy Sergeant

I was not necessarily saying that we should stop benefits to alcoholics. I was saying that it makes very little sense to increase the tax on alcohol by 7p a pint and give alcoholics £80 pw to buy it with.

I can do joined up government. You can rant.
Each to their own.

Paul Oakley

Patsy @ 4:19. Yes, I do care about the drinks industry as it creates wealth and employment (and contributes to tax revenues in any event).

I am no fan of the immense drinking caverns run by chains but enjoy a pint in small free houses. In my part of South London these are disappearing fast as a result of various pressures and this proposal will only quicken their demise.

I take it from your post that there is a touch of the puritan in your outlook. That is a legitimate and respectable viewpoint, but for so long as alcohol remains a legal beverage, those of us who enjoy it responsibly should not be battered by yet another tax hike. In any event, you can bet that this income will not be ring-fenced but instead will be spent on yet more Diversity Officers; Outreach Workers etc etc.

Simon R, ex-CCFer and Mike H are right. The polluter should pay.

Machiavelli's Understudy

You're just another odious authoritarian, masquerading under the pretence that you know better than the rest of us.

I pay more than enough in tax on what I drink, without being a burden on the economy, the NHS or anyone else. Why should I pay yet more tax to pay for the problem behaviour of other people?

Social conservatives like you bring no fresh thinking to the table and are no different to the awful shower that are in government now.

What we need is for the repatriation of personal responsibilities for individuals, rather than the opportunity to 'outsource' it or 'pay as you go' through an anachronistic and immoral tax system. People need to be immediately responsible for their actions and pay appropriately for any consequences- why are you not addressing this much more fundamental issue?

Matt Wright

Do we need to do something - yes. The question is really what we do and how we do it and that is where I don't agree with much in this article.

Firstly I do agree that drinking is definately getting out of hand and becoming a serious problem. I am not talking about a couple of glasses of wine or 2 or 3 pints, what we are facing is people who drink most nights (either at home or out) and think nothing of drinking at least 1 bottle or over 5 pints in regular sessions. Many of those that are "binge drinking" are drinking very heavily (typically over 10 pints) in a sitting, usually at weekends.

However I very much part company with some of the stuff in the article and don't think modest tax increases ("treatment tax" or whatever) will make any difference at all. I was recently in Iceland where drink is extremely expensive and the Runtur sees people reeling in the streets.

My big worry is the "where" and "what" of cheap drink. Its the bargain basement cheapo booze shops and supermarkets that worry me most, followed by the lager-lout type pubs. Its the whole idea that having fun must involve being really drunk in the drugged sense. This culture is all around us now starting at Facebook and ending up in the gutter.

I choose the word "culture" deliberately. Its only when the culture changes (whether its alcohol or drugs) that the demand patterns will change. Lets cast our minds back - houses were licensed to sell drink so the situation could be sensibly controlled. I actually don't want to disrupt traditional pubs. Sales of real ale are in trouble and the small pubs are closing. Lets be honest about the culture. In many European countries drinking is really something you do as part of a meal. You get full and you don't drink vast quantities. Children see their parents enjoying drink as part of a meal not as soley a means to be drugged out of their minds.

The great thing about the work that has been done by the Social Justice groups is the recognition that culture and generational change to achieve social responsibility is key. Just taxing alcohol across the board will not work and turns the good ideas on their head.


I live in Sweden, which has plenty restrictions on booze. But go to a house party there and you'll find a bottle of bootleg pure alcohol on the table, mixed with coke or whatever. They drink like vikings there. Teenage girls dip tampons in vodka and get drunk that way, so it doesnt show on their breath. Do we want to go that way? You'll find coke, lsd, dope etc all cheaper than booze in britain because you cant control your borders. Price booze out of the market and I suspect you can tell which way your kids will go. It wont be to the boys scouts.

Patsy Sergeant

Paul Oakley - You might be surprised! No there is not much puritan in my outlook. I don't frequent pubs very much these days, because the noise hurts my ears, and also unlimited drinking can prove VERY quickly anti-social (i.e. being sick) because my inside won't tolerate it anymore! But I still DO drink and enjoy it but much less!

Also, a long time ago I was married to an alcoholic, and learned the 'hard' way what effects drink can have!!!

I wouldn't want, in the least to curtail enjoyable, reasonable (of course HOW do you define what is reasonable as it varies from person to person!!) drinking, but at the same time aas a society we do have to get to grips, SOMEHOW, with people who seem to have no self control or self respect, if only for the simple reason that it is a bl...y waste of police time, and an appalling imposition on the staff of A&E Depts: who so often have to pick up the pieces!!

Jim Carr

It is an offence to be drunk and incapable.
Fine those who commit the offence, and keep fining them until the pips squeak.
Problem solved.
But that wouldn't suit the taxation junkies who really just want to find another means to punish everyone else.

Simon R

Tony, thanks for the explanation about under-25's, but being (just) under 25 myself and an intermittent binge drinker, I like to feel I have an ok handle on it.

Drinking for guys is very much a macho group activity, and what I am saying is that there is no way that government can mount a successful campaign aimed at changing men's attitudes to binge drinking, unless it was based on being sober at the end of the night and thus able to pull drunk girls that much easier, which is itself not a particularly socially responsible message. With girls I believe its different -we can still combat a culture that glorifies trash like Jordan falling out of cabs etc with more positive and glamorous role models.

Matt Wright

Jim, I agree and have been banging away on this one myself as a member of a Licensing Committee. There is a problem however which may require a change in the law. The issue is one of how and at what point we say someone is drunk and whether it is alcohol or drugs that caused it. Also where did that point start and at which pub. So far there have been zero prosecutions of licensees for selling to someone who is drunk in Wales. Don't know what the position is across the Uk but suspect similar.

The comments to this entry are closed.

  • Tracker 2
  • Extreme Tracker