Time for Britain to have tough licensing laws

 08 Oct 2016 - 19:12

By Lauren Booth

In Britain we have reached the stage in our relationship with booze best summed up as ‘can’t live with it and unable to live without it’.

As Theresa May’s Government back peddles on tackling cheap booze and easy licensing laws, a new type of drinker may force a rethink by venue managers and drinks companies anyway.

Liverpool, never knowingly sober on a Saturday night, now has a popular place called the Brink Bar which offers non-alcoholic cocktails, comedy nights and advice for people who want to shun alcohol. These new ‘bars’ offer the kind of family friendly atmosphere that those who live and visit the Gulf Region, already enjoy.
Similar ventures have been popping up across the country, in London, Manchester, Aberdeen and Sobar in Nottingham, established with help of lottery funding.
Steve Youdell, from Double Impact, the charity behind Nottingham dry pub Sobar, said:

“The idea has been to create a space in the city that is alcohol-free”.

As news broke that youth seeking a trendy night out are happily paying to stay sober, on September 15, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Children of Alcoholics, met in the House of Commons. The aim of the APPG is to champion the cause of children of hazardous drinkers.

Finally, after decades of evidence of the harm to the family structure and safety of children as a result of habitual parental drinking, alcohol is being viewed (by some) in politics with the same caution as tobacco.

The long-term presence of alcohol in the home indicates potentially calamitous, long term effects, which should be considered at least as harmful to the well-being of the child as secondary smoke inhalation.

As the child of alcoholic parents, it was par for the cause that I would be drawn to the stuff myself, at toxic levels, at an early age. On my sixteenth birthday, I was taken to the pub by a parent. There, a school friend and I were brought high strength cider by adults until we staggered home alone to fill my mum’s bedroom sink with chunky vomit- a not-so-unusual, coming-of-age, in a society that marks every occasion with dangerous amounts of potent liquid often obliterating, in the process, the memories of the very thing we set out to toast.

In November 2015, MP Liam Byrne tabled a motion for Parliament to recognise that alcohol harm costs the UK £21bn a year. That alcohol misuse is now Britain’s third biggest health problem after smoking and obesity and to recognise that children of hazardous drinkers suffer a range of mental health issues, are more likely to consider suicide, are more prone to eating disorders and are far more likely than most to become alcoholics themselves.

According to the Centre for Public Health (CPH), the biggest contributors to alcohol-attributable deaths are cancers, digestive diseases and injuries. The Government was called upon to offer a strategy to help children of alcoholics, specifying concrete steps for public agencies to identify children of alcoholics in order to connect them with sources of support. It received a mere 32 signatories.

The deeper we look into alcohol and its effects, the more disturbing the picture. Thirty six per cent of domestic violence incidents still involve booze. An estimated, 2.6m homes are currently suffering a state of turmoil as a result of parental drinking.

Experts from the world of health and family support, present disturbing evidence related to extreme drinking habits, all in the hope that the British Government may eventually be persuaded to shake off the shackles of the powerful drinks lobby reigning in effective policy making.

Yet, in July, Whitehall blocked the Welsh Assembly’s plans to raise the minimum unit price of alcohol. Why? The excuse presented was that such a move would amount to devolving further powers related to policing and public health to the Welsh Assembly. A convenient fudge.

This delay in government measures will allow the death toll to rise especially in socially deprived areas, where the easy availability and low price of revenue-making, alcohol products continues to impact lives, damage families and wreck the nation’s health- just the kind of bargain product pricing, austerity-hit Britain cannot afford.
As a patron of the campaigning charity, National Association of Children of Alcoholics (NACOA), I know very well the appalling state of households blighted by alcohol addiction. The charity’s helpline for children has received 300,000 calls, many featuring the same question, ‘How can I get Mum/Dad to drink less?’

It is time for a break up with alcohol no matter how acrimonious it may be.

Each year there are more than a million UK hospital admissions are linked to alcohol consumption, while in 2012 alcohol-related deaths reached 6,490.
The cost to health, well-being, future prospects of children affected, in all areas of their lives, is impacted by cheap booze, easily accessible and the modern drinking culture.

In the eighties, it became clear that it was time to stub out the cigarettes in places of business, entertainment and especially, at home, in front of our children. The secondary effects of consistent heavy drinking are well known and unacceptable in a caring, forward-thinking society.

In the UK calls are rising for alcohol in society to no longer be the ‘go to’ substance for solace and celebration.

Now is the time to treat alcohol consumption as we do smoking - as a dangerous, damaging habit with the ability to blight our next generation. Who’s up then, for a child-friendly celebration of abstinence and a Virgin Mojito in Katara?

The writer is a journalist, broadcaster and media consultant: www.laurenbooth.org , Twitter:@LaurenBoothUK