8th September issue

Drink up, stay real

Can public health really come from the other side of the bar?

Effects of harmful drinking are all too plain in this issue, from the children suffering their parents’ excesses to the man still reeling from the blow of his brother’s painful death. We know too much too often is no good for us, yet we drink because if feels good and is part of life and socialising for many of us.

It’s debatable whether we’d take note of unit counts on bottles from our seat at the bar, but consistent labelling would be a start. Alcohol Concern’s chief executive Don Shenker demands much more on page 8: he highlights July’s independent report on the drinks industry, which revealed widespread ignorance among licensees of their own code of practice. Far from being on top of self-regulation, as they have insisted they are, the industry was shown to be guilty of persistently targeting the most vulnerable; selling more drink to the drunk and serving underage teenagers. Don Shenker wants an end to this pretence through introducing a mandatory code – a public health objective in the Licensing Act; add your views through the consultation.

There’s much evidence documenting our drinking culture – we don’t expect to be surprised by it. Just yesterday I listened to a radio interview with Professor Norma Daykin from the University of the West of England, presenting findings of a government-funded study. It showed that many radio presenters mentioned alcohol and made light of it, wanting to connect with an audience that drank regularly to socialise – the booze banter was as natural a part of dialogue as any other subject. It demonstrated the size of the mountain – health risks happen to other people, a culture change is not just around the corner. What we can do is demand honesty and fair trading in an industry that thinks writing ‘Please enjoy [brand name] responsibly’, while peddling ‘drink all you can’ promotions is doing their bit for public health.

On a lighter note, welcome to our first issue after our summer publishing break – it’s good to be back!

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