Opinion: Neo-prohibitionists

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Drinks: Wines
Other: Opinion, Service

I’ve been thinking a lot about the ‘problem’ of alcohol and the increasingly virulent campaign against it by the trash and mainstream media, fed by the health lobby and supported by hypocritical politicians. (For some well-reasoned arguments against the neo-prohibitionists see petebrown.blogspot.com. I am grateful to the excellent Zak Avery for flagging that blog up in his column in Off Licence News.) While it is important to challenge the exaggerations and lazy reporting, it is also vital that we in the industry think hard about the problems that can be associated with alcohol. While I support the various industry schemes aimed at encouraging moderate consumption, I can’t help wondering some times if they are more about protecting ourselves i.e showing that we are doing something, to stave off legislation, rather than actively trying to change people’s behaviour. Nobody I know in the industry says they think moderate consumption is a bad idea, but we are still remarkably tolerant of friends and colleagues who get drunk. Why?

If I believed that alcohol was morally wrong I wouldn’t be in this business, but at the same time, I believe we must surely address the problems it can cause for some consumers. As the father of two boys entering their teens I am acutely aware of some of the mad things I did in my teens and am keen to instil in them a better idea of sensible drinking than I had. I’ve just been in South Africa and was told about what sounds like a brilliant, practical scheme sponsored by SAB. Designated drivers are encouraged to register on arrival at a bar, breath-tested, then breath-tested again on departure. Assuming they ‘pass’ they get a taxi voucher for their next night out. What could be simpler? It’s good for the punters and good for SAB’s beer brands. When will we see a genuinely innovative initiative in here in the UK?

About Author

Peter McCombie

As a leading restaurant wine consultant Peter has chosen wine and trained staff for a host of five star hotels, members clubs and London’s best restaurants, not to mention the Cliff in Barbados. He lectures for Christie's Wine Course and the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, is a regular judge in international wine competitions and writes about wine for several magazines.

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