The government have been trying for years to tackle England’s drinking problem, not least because the cost to the NHS is estimated at £2.7 billion a year, and to society at large up to £25 billion (think broken windows, vandalized property, and piss-covered pavements). 23% of us exceed our daily limit (which, in case you need reminding, is 2-3 units a day for a woman, and 3-4 for a man), and 1 in 5 calls to 999 on weekend nights are about drunk people.
Young people have been the favoured scapegoat for many years now, with an emphasis placed by most on tackling teenage binge drinking and general loutish behaviour (oops). New statistics, however, are revealing a growing number of women aged 35 and above exceeding their advised intake, and a rise in middle class immoderate drinkers. The problem is no longer just about those of us who choose to get absolutely slaughtered on a weekly basis, but about the older generations polishing off bottles of wine or several pints every night with the justification that they’ve “earned it” after a long day at work.
The new campaign, therefore, has taken a different approach. Killing two birds with one stone, the government has come to the decision to merge binge drinking with England’s other big problem: obesity. To scare off the weight conscious drinkers out there, their main aim is to emphasise the calorie content of the average adult’s tipple every night. So let’s look at this in real terms. Drinking a pint of premium lager is the equivalent of stuffing your face with a veritable feast of two mini pork pies. And don’t even ask about your two vodka shots (a whole dollop of single cream).
In some ways it’s possible that it could work. The calorie content of an average night out works out as somewhere between 1000-1500 kcal (based on a few glasses of wine/pints, a vodka mixer or two, and some tequila shots), and can range from 15-20 units. This is fairly shocking, especially when you factor in those cheesy chips and packets of crisps, but it’s more likely to encourage people to work out what has the most alcohol for the least calories (spirits), rather than change the amount they drink.
Once again, the government has chosen to deal with the symptoms of the problem rather than address the root. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the main thing that makes people want to get drunk is stress, so why not try tackling this? Using calorie content is only going to stir up resentment about government interference, and worse, point people in the direction of calorie-light alternatives, which just happen to be the most alcoholic. So, nice try, but I think I’ll take another few fish fingers, thank you.