serious

Booze

There's a lot of talk about the expected epidemic of alcohol-related disease and injury after the upcoming change in licencing laws. There's never any comment about the fact that Scotland had a simlar change in the seventies - so were the changes in Scotland disastrous at the time, and has the trend up here been worse than it has south of the border?

There are a lot of assumptions, and no bloody evidence. As far as I can tell, anyway. Anecdotally, liberalising Scottish licencing law was a major success, although there are the same complaints about social problems north of the border as south of it. The figures don't seem to show that Scots generally drink more than English, which might seem to indicate that extending opening hours isn't a major factor in the way that expense probably is. However, if Scots up until the early Seventies drank less than English (and how likely does that sound?) but now drink about the same, then we'd probably conclude that extending opening hours does increase the amount people drink.

So, does anyone know where I should look for that information? I haven't been able to find it so far.
  • Current Mood: sceptical
  • Current Music: The Matter Babies - Tik Tak Blap
I'm fairly sure that extended opening hours weren't a success in London in the late 80s, because people tended not to drink any more, they just spread their drinking out more. Publicans hated it, as they weren't making more money.


Might be worth looking in
http://human-nature.com/
and http://www.biome.ac.uk/
(grin) I think this is a no win situation for the people making the legislation.

If people don't drink more then publicans will raise hell because they're working longer hours for less money.

If people do drink more then health groups will raise hell becuase drink is bad for us (and we're clearly too stupid to realise this and must be protected).
I reckon, 'bullshit', personally.

I think antisocial drunken people have less to do with how much bars are open (beyond 'in the evening') and far more to do with the intensive advertising of multiple-buys of alcohol that encourage "ah, I'll just get another, it's free" mentality and drinking establishments which induce stress and encourage rapid drinking (loud music, no or uncomfortable seats, crowded, eye-searing decor, etc - just check out how fast food restaurants discourage you from lingering).

In summary people wouldn't get as drunk and turn into as many arseholes if they got their drinks one by one and drank them in a chilled-out place.
I'm going to word this badly, but:

They also might not turn into such arseholes if it wasn't on some level socially acceptable. If, for instance, they were likely to lose friends because of alcohol-related violence & general fuckwittery rather than chalk it up to part of the weekend routine to be laughed over on Monday morning. If punching someone in the taxi rank was more likely to lead to a criminal record.

For all the hand-wringing in the press & in government, a sizeable proportion of the population use alcohol as a way to get away with shit they couldn't do while sober & think that's acceptable. Until that changes, nothing imposed from higher up will work.

Though I'm the first to join the campaign for more comfortable pubs.
Comparing the effects of liberalising the laws in the 70s vs. today might be useless as so many things in society have changed since then.

Good luck in your research though - it's the sort of thing we should be able to apply some numbers to (why yes, I just read that New Scientist article about how little hard science, or even soft science, is done to support social policy).
Comparing the effects of liberalising the laws in the 70s vs. today might be useless as so many things in society have changed since then.

On the other hand, it might not be. The social changes since then could be irrelevant, and it is so easy to ignore all the parallels that indicate that actually things have, in important respects, have stayed exactly the same.

We're also trying to guess the change that will occur in (sections of) society due to changes in what is possible. Change is the whole crux of the matter. You can't measure that by standing still, and it does pay to learn from those who have apparently successfully made the change before.
I reckon it's just a perception issue. I think people were much more casual about public drunkenness in the 70s and 80s. I can remember that it was just unsafe to go out in Blackpool on St. Andrew's day because of the drunks.

http://earthtrends.wri.org/searchable_db/index.cfm?theme=4&variable_ID=1186&action=select_countries

has data until 1999 shows the UK drinking less than the European average and less in the late 90s than in the late 80s. Two things you'd never have worked out from the news which has been painting the UK as a bunch of out of control alcoholics who are drinking more than ever for about ten years now.
FWIW, I think:

* Any problem we currently have is actually pretty minor. It needs to be dealt with, yes, but we already have systems in place that can do so if they were used properly.

* We live in an alcohol culture. This is not in itself a bad thing. Most of the world lives in an alcohol culture. If we make a worse job of it than any other, that is because of the particular way ours is structured. The way round that is to attack the points of that structure where the problem manifests.

* That is not the fact that it involves alcohol. Other people manage it, so can we.

* I don't think multi-buy deals are the problem - Tesco often do multi-buy deals on various foodstuffs and I'm still somewhat under 20 stone. You could multi-buy at the start of the night and make it last. (Many do.)

* Happy hours and a fixed closing time I can see a problem with - any system which says you must drink this amount before this time or you're not getting a good deal is clearly going to encourage the wrong drinking patterns.
This all strikes me as fairly sound. I'd maybe do something stronger about advertising too, though.
http://pb.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/full/25/11/409

Contains:

"In most respects consumption patterns in Scotland do not differ significantly from those in the rest of the UK. Recent surveys commonly show that the heaviest drinkers are to be found in the North of England. Men in Scotland drink more than in England, both in terms of mean units consumed per week and the likelihood of consuming more than 20 units per week. However, men in England are more likely than those in Scotland to consume alcohol on 3 or more days a week. It has often been shown that there is a tendency to more concentrated drinking in Scotland than in England"

Interestingly http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=retrieve&db=pubmed&list_uids=339108&dopt=Abstract

"Three centuries of alcohol in the British diet."

"Alcoholic drinks were consumed in larger quantities in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries than in the twentieth century, although there has been a recent increase from the historical low of 1930-60" -- though this is from 1977.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/3827805.stm

Seems to claim that the scottish licencing laws have made things worse:

"It was hoped that longer European-style drinking hours would encourage people in Scotland to have a more relaxed attitude to alcohol. But as well as adopting the continental way of drinking with meals, Scots are binge-drinking at weekends. While alcohol consumption in countries like Italy and France has fallen, levels are soaring in Scotland."

but doesn't give figures.

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/society/rlllm-00.asp is far too long for me to bother reading but might help.
Seems to claim that the scottish licencing laws have made things worse:

As you say, it doesn't give figures and doesn't give a comparison with England and Wales. I wish at least somebody over there in medialand would understand the need for these things.

They keep saying that drinking's out of control in England as well. But they don't give convincing figures for that either.
I've been looking over some media articles about it and the standards of journalism really are laughably bad. One observer article particularly tickled me. Britain had the worst binge drink problem in europe. The french and italians drink more but they spread it out. The scandinavians drink more and binge in greater quantity but they don't binge so often. Therefore britain is obviously the worst. Hmm... run that one by me again. I read five articles (mostly from the telegraph and the observer) and none of them provided anything more than hearsay or incidents. (The Telegraph one incidentally noted that we used to drink more in previous centuries but went on to dismiss this and continue on about how we were a nation who had lost our pride etc etc).
View from the barstool
Pubs could open 24 hrs a day with no problem at all if they just stuck to the law and didn't serve people who were drunk. When I was hammering the drink 18 months ago I used to get cut off in my local when I was too drunk to carry on. They did that for my own sake, but pubs should be hit with more spot checks by undercover police, and violating places should be shut on the spot for the rest of the night. That wouldn't have to happen very often for a place to tighten up its act. Extra police costs for this and other action after longer hours are introduced - such as policing town centres in the early hours of Fridays & Sats - should be raised from a charge levied on late-night establishments, coupled with extra charges for larger places where there has been more trouble before.

Its hardly rocket science.