Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The War on Alcohol.

The last two days newspapers have been some disturbing reading. The papers - broadsheets no less- seem to have a bee in their bonnet with the middle classes and alcohol. Now its interesting to see the middle classes being attacked, usually when alcohol abuse is mentioned it is either the youth or the lower classes being tarred and feathered. It would seem that a recent Department of Health document has shown that alcohol related illnesses are on the increase in the middle classes and obviously that is having a severe impact on NHS resources (now we see why the upper classes arent being ostracised - they mostly use private healthcare and consequently pay for their own alcohol abuse).

We have a troubled relationship with alcohol, like most countries in Europe that impose strict control. The ease of access to alcohol these days has undoubtably meant that more people are drinking, despite the astronomical taxes we pay on alcohol, it is now more affordable than ever. When my parents were first setting up home they wouldnt have had such easy access to wine. Back then supermarkets didnt sell it, Oddbins didnt exist and if you wanted to buy wine you would have had to find a wine merchant and purchase it by the case. Now theres an Oddbins or Majestic or Threshers etc etc in every town, most corner shops will sell some wine or other and of course the supermarkets now account for a staggering percentage of wine sales (Ive been told its close to 70% but cant confirm that figure). Wine has become such an integral part of our lives that it is now viewed as an everyday product, including in the "shopping baskets" that various government agencies use to measure consumer spending etc etc. Now the government wants to reverse that situation in an effort to control our intake of alcohol. I find it quite interesting that according to the latest issue of Decanter, the top five wine-consuming nations (per capita) doesn't feature the UK. Searching the internet has so far failed to uncover the top twenty, so Im unsure where Britain sits on the list, but France tops the list at 63.8 litres per capita per annum (2005). AFAIK they dont appear to be having the same "issues" with their health. (Possibly due to their apparent lack of sensationalist media, but more than likely due to the fact they dont have a state sponsored healthcare system that is completely fubar).

So what does the future hold for wine drinkers? It is quite possible that once the ban on smoking comes into play the nanny state may attempt some legislative control over alcohol consumption. Most likely will be an increase in current taxation or an additional tax placed on wine particularly. Either way the future isnt looking bright.

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