As a counselor for alcohol awareness classes I often discuss the role of government regulation as it relates to drinking behavior. Whether you drink or not I am sure you have an opinion on this. In England, one of the government’s leading officials is discussing some of the problems they have created through legislation.
Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former spokesman, examines the British middle class's troubled relationship with alcohol and his own long and complicated history with booze.
To read the headlines about Britain's problems with alcohol, you might think it is largely an issue of teenage binge-drinking in town centers up and down the country.
You would be very wrong. Young people drinking too much is a problem. But it is not the biggest drink problem Britain faces. The real problem comes in the form of hidden alcoholics.
Back in my hard-drinking days I was one of them (only in the US, not the UK) - professional, successful on the surface, with a good job, a steady relationship, a mortgage and lots of friends. But I was heading for a very big fall.
Studies have shown that the professional classes are now the most frequent drinkers in the England and that 41% of professional men drink more than the recommended daily limit of three to four units at least once a week. Women are also drinking much more than they used to, with alcoholic liver disease now split evenly between the sexes.
Back in my days in corporate America, the bars were just an extension of the office.
When I worked a news reporter for a local daily it was just a sea of alcohol. If you were editing the paper, people just came in to your office to empty your drinks cabinet.
One of the laws Campbell sites as a mistake of regulation is the law allowing alcohol to be purchased 24 hours a day. He lists this among the few things he disagreed with while serving under Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Recent figures show that nearly 9,000 people die each year in the UK from alcohol-related diseases. Perhaps more alarmingly, liver disease in general is the only major cause of death in Britain that is on the rise, year after year - claiming 100 lives every week - whereas mortality for all the smoking diseases is falling dramatically.
Then came the booze cruises to France and the birth of a seemingly unquenchable British thirst. Since 1970, our consumption of wine has gone up five-fold, according to the Beer and Pub Association. We now consume 1.6 billion bottles a year (not counting the ones we drink when we go abroad). It has gone from a middle-class luxury to an everyday part of middle-class life.
Don’t get me wrong, I do feel government has a role to play in setting rules and regulations on responsible drinking. But the end decision to drink lays with the drinker not the government. We need to continue efforts to educate the public through alcohol classes to the dangers of alcohol.