British beer writer Phil Mellows, who also specializes in alcohol policy, had an interesting observation in a recent post, Alcohol Consumption Down, Alcohol Harm Up. In his native England, as is happening here, overall alcohol consumption has been on a slow but steady decline for a number of years. The problems associated with alcohol abuse, however, have not. Yet the policies here and there are based on the anti-alcohol organizations and “the medical profession who say that to reduce alcohol harm we have to reduce overall consumption, [which is] the logic behind raising the price of alcohol and restricting its availability.” That’s also one of the reasons that these same people keep trying to impose more and more taxes on alcohol. Yet it’s not working. It’s never worked. Phil concludes by trying to make sense of it.
Rather than trying to get the whole population to drink less (which they are, in any case, already doing), alcohol policy should be focused on the growing minority of people, more stressed even than [the prime minister], who are quietly drinking themselves to death out of despair.
And that’s been the problem with alcohol policy here, too. They keep trying to punish the industry and the majority of people who drink it responsibly in order to stop the problem drinkers. It doesn’t work. It’s never worked. It ignores the underlying causes of alcohol abuse. The people who don’t abuse it and in fact enjoy it in moderation — which is a healthy choice — are the ones who pay the price. It’s frustrating. It’s ineffective. It ignores the real problems and punishes the innocent, not to mention it may damage one of the few healthy industries in the economy. But it keeps on happening. Someone has to say enough. I’m happy to start. Enough, already.