SO, our whole economic system is suffering from a massive hangover but it’s binge drinking that’s going to get sorted out.
You may wonder whether that nice Mr Cameron has got his priorities right – but there’s no denying that, if he can make some headway, he’ll have made as big a contribution to public health as his unlamented Labour predecessors did by introducing the smoking ban.
There’s a strategy on the way, of course, but for starters the PM has called for bars and supermarkets to help tackle a problem that costs the NHS £2.7bn a year.
But it shouldn’t be about money, and we shouldn’t even be thinking about a ban.
And the PM ought to be looking to recruit far beyond the pint-pullers and grog floggers to help achieve this admirable end.
It’s one of those issues – like seat belts and the smoking ban, which have been great successes, and the ban on using your mobile at the wheel, which is still a boil to be lanced – where the vast majority of us are just waiting for someone to take a sensible lead.
And the way to do it is to make life more difficult for the drinker – and when I say drinker, I don’t just mean the lager-fuelled lout or the alcopop addled teenager – I mean all of us.
I’m fed up of all sorts of expensive measures being put in place to pick up the pieces of other people’s lack of self-control. The aim has got to be to stop people regarding the act of getting completely hammered as an option for a night out, or even a night in.
So here are a few ideas to throw into the mix, for the PM to consider over a relaxing glass of wine one evening.
Number 1, ban all alcopops. Strong drink isn’t supposed to taste like lemonade.
Number 2, restrict the sale of all spirits to people over the age of 25. If I had my way I’d also make it illegal to use mixers to soften the taste of hard liquor, for the same reasons that alcopops have to go, but I do enjoy the occasional gin and tonic so that one will have to stay on the drawing board.
Number 3, by all means introduce a higher unit price for alcohol but don’t penalise those who enjoy a bracer but know when to stop – jack up the pub prices only after the first two drinks, introduce maximum purchase rules in supermarkets and the like just like they have for painkillers these days, and halt the sale of alcohol in containers larger than one litre, especially if we’re talking about super strength cider.
Number 4, forget street pastors and people being paid by the public purse to get drunk and incapable kids home safely. Employ them instead to wander town centres at closing time, corner people who have had a skinful, and paint their faces purple.
The paint should not be permanent, of course, but it should be pretty much immovable for a week or so as evidence of a bender that would last a lot longer, and be a lot more visible, to the world at large than a hangover.
Then it would be for the rest of us to bring peer pressure to bear, and sneer and snigger at the victims for long after whatever memory they had of a good night out had faded. Purple paint would make them pariahs, and we’d soon change their habits.