Cutting the duty on a pint of beer by 1p a pint and 2 per cent on scotch whisky – as Chancellor George Osborne announced during his pre-election budget statement – is likely to have as much effect as putting a penny or percentage point on.
Perhaps the recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, which found that the proportion of young adults ‘binge-drinking’ at least once a week had fallen from 29 per cent in 2005 to 18 per cent in 2013 may have come to his attention.
The figures appear to show that since 2005 there has been a slight rise in the numbers who drink less alcohol. More than one in five of UK adults claim they now do not drink alcohol at all – the most noticeable changes occurring in the 16-24 and 25-44 age groups. There has also been a rise in young adults aged 16-24 who say they are teetotal.
But of course, the term, “smoke and mirrors” comes to mind – and we’re not referring to those that used to be found inside a public house or bar back in the day.
“Numbers are still far higher than they were 20 years ago…”
According to the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, the results were “encouraging” but there was “absolutely no room for complacency” adding that “The overall numbers of alcohol-related deaths may be down but the numbers are still far higher than they were 20 years ago … alcohol remained the biggest single cause of death in the under-60s in the UK.”
More than 9 million people in England drink more than the recommended daily limits, according to the charity, Alcohol Concern, and 9 per cent of men and 6 per cent of women drank at least three times the recommended limits on at least one day in the last week.
Numbers which are more likely to present a more truer reflection of the real extent of the UK’s alcohol problems, and all too familiar to men and women who battle with their alcohol addiction every waking moment of their day.
Total number who attended alcohol rehab had risen
And what of the those who struggle to overcome their dependency on alcohol to get through the day. Figures from Public Health England show that the total number of men and women aged between 18 and 64 who attended alcohol rehab had risen by 4.8 per cent from 109,683 in 2012/13 to 114,920 in 2013/14.
In the 18-24 age group the percentage of both male and females who attended rehab because of alcohol problems had actually reduced by just 1 per cent for both genders while the proportion of the 40-44 age group remained the same despite the actual numbers rising by more than 560.
The risk is that by highlighting the tiny proportion of young people who, for a variety of reasons choose not to drink, the increase in alcohol addiction along with their underlying causes and individual tragedies continues to be stigmatised and a source of private shame and guilt.