I mention this because, in the way you do, without being particularly interested in the answer, I asked him what he was doing on Hogmanay.
'Oh nothing much', he replied. 'Time was that you couldn't afford a drink that often, so you splashed out and bought a bottle or two at the New Year, but now that it's a cheap as chips at the supermarket, you can have it all the time.
'Mind you', he added, 'in these days you could always afford heating. The treat nowadays is to be able to afford to have the whole house warm'.
I thought he was joking, until I got to thinking about it. But it's true that home heating prices are now exorbitant, and the cost of a warm house all winter is one that many working people can no longer afford. At the same time drink has become cheaper.
Someone is bound to have done one of those cost comparisons. You know the kind of thing. It sounds like an arithmetic problem from school: "A man on average wages in 1970 would have had to work 6 hours to be able to buy a bottle of Johnny Walker; now the same man on the an average wage would only have to work 2 hours. What is the percentage reduction in price, relative to income."
I'd be interested if anyone knows where I could find it.
There has been a lot of criticism of the government's plans to increase the minimum price of a unit of alcohol, and I have been among their critics. I think that no matter what it costs, the compulsive drinker will buy drink. (S)he will find the money somehow. As with any increase in price, it will hit the poorest hardest. The rich are never really hurt by anything. Another £10, £20, £30 on their weekly drink bill will mean nothing. And the teenager out on the batter? A night out is expensive: adding another five or six pounds to it isn't going to stop them.
So, is this the answer?
The chief medical officers of the UK countries seem to think so, and the Scottish government has already acted to bring in a raft of over 40 measures to tackle a problem that is reckoned to cost around £900 per adult in the country: A total of £3.56 million, around 10% of Scotland's total budget. England looks likely to be following our example.
If Britain has a sever problem with alcohol abuse, Scotland's is much worse. In fact alcohol sales in our country are 23% higher than in England and Wales.
We're not alone in having an alcohol problem, which as well as costing us so much of what we have to run Scotland, also makes our town centres no go areas on Friday and Saturday nights. Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia, the Baltic states and Russia, all have the same issues. Is it the cold, the dark, the short summer?
There has always been a macho culture about drink in Scotland. 'You're not a man if you can't drink 8 pints', sort of thing. You're a wimp if after a few pints you have an orange juice. And guys have always bragged about how drunk they got and how they had no idea of what they were doing.
And in the recent past one of the less attractive aspects of sexual equality, has been the sight of teenage girls vomiting in shop doorways or lying drunk in the gutter.
We hear a lot of complaints from bloggers, newspaper columnists, and all, but rarely do we ever hear any really practical solutions put forward.
|An effect of cirrhosis of the liver|
Has anyone got any constructive suggestions to offer?