David Cameron has pledged to raise taxes of high-alcohol beers and alcopops if he wins the next election. He will get brickbats from the right of his party, but many old people will support his stance.
Alcohol is a real problem. When we see 22-year olds dying of cirrhosis, when we see people afraid to go out on the streets at night, when we see a rise in date-rape, when we see young boys and girls collected by a police van late at night because they are too drunk to go home; then we know we have a problem.
How to solve it? Tony Blair thought he could solve it by abolishing licencing hours; he hoped that we would adopt a continental-cafe mentality. He was wrong, the hours of binge drinking simply got longer.
We know what doesn't work - prohibition. During the days of the Speakeasy the number of units of alcohol consumed in America did not diminish, but the mode of consuming it did. Wine and beer consumption was less, but spirit consumption increased. This was the day of the cocktail. Cocktails were invented because raw spirits were unpalatable, so they added sweeteners. Since transport of alcohol was risky and expensive, it made sense to have fewer journeys and lore concentrated truck loads hence spirits rather than wine or beer.
Today in Britain we are seeing a growth of stronger alcoholic drinks. Alcopops are the new cocktails. Beers are getting to be as strong as fortified wines.
So David Cameron's solution seems sensible. He is also intending to stop kebab stalls and other fast-food outlets from selling alcohol in the early hours of the morning. But another problem he has to face is that of youngsters getting drunk before they go out by buying cheap alcohol from supermarkets. In some supermarkets I visit they seem only to sell alcohol, fast food, and sweets. Alcohol is often marketed as a loss-leader to entice people in.
A further hazard is alcohol coming in from France. Vast alcohol supermarkets are situated close to Calais. As long as it is for 'personal use' unlimited amounts of duty-free alcohol can be imported from Europe. You would be surprised how much these 'persons' in their white vans can 'use'. The restriction is regularly flouted but how do you prove it?
I dare say my right-wing friends will be appalled that I suggest that alcohol consumption should be restricted, but all I can say to them is take a turn in an ER and try to staunch the bloody vomit from a 25-year old with esophageal varices.