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Survey shows true picture

Published:  18 January, 2007

At a time when the issue of alcohol consumption is generating more heat than light in parts of the press it's been instructive to uncover some facts and figures that tell a rather different picture about what the public really think.

Now it probably won't surprise you to learn that most people don't want their glass of wine or rum and coke taxed more than it is. Hardly a shock that.

But it's part of a more telling disjoin between what the public think about drinking and the picture portrayed by some politicians. While the question on habits found a substantial (24%) minority claiming they never drink at all, the overall pattern for consumption (only 8% saying they drink every day) falls far short of the binge- drinking epidemic depicted by the health lobby and politicians.

The reality is that the public has a clear idea of what the real problem is with alcohol misuse, who's responsible and what should be done to tackle them.

Asked what they thought were the serious problems associated with drinking, people focused on law and order, with health and the impact on the NHS near the bottom. Asked who or what is to blame, our sample put addiction, lack of self-control and lack of parental responsibility at the top of the list, with advertising and low taxation last.

The sample was equally sanguine about the measures to address problem drinking. Most favoured more parental responsibility, followed by cracking down on problem licensees and the police getting tougher. At the bottom were setting a minimum price for alcohol, making bars close earlier and, you've guessed it, raising taxes.

Judging by the Chancellor's weekend comments indicating he is not planning a big increase in tax on alcohol to tackle binge- drinking, we hope our message is getting through.

Jeremy Beadles is chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association