Thursday, 4 February 2010

Admit drinking is normal

There’s an excellent article on this week’s Sp!ked by Dolan Cummings entitled The first step: admit drinking is normal, in which he argues that the way to develop a healthy drinking culture is actually to treat drinking as a normal part of everyday life rather than denormalising it and pushing it to the margins:

Proposals to introduce minimum pricing give the lie to the idea that health and government officials are interested in ‘responsible drinking’. There is nothing responsible about limiting your drinking according to your budget. ‘How many units can I get for a fiver?’ is not a question a cultured drinker asks, and yet this is precisely the mentality being encouraged by today’s scientistic crusade against booze. In a healthy drinking culture, we drink as much as we like, and ‘too much’ is defined not by our wallets but by our experience and the demands of our non-drinking lives. A unit-counting, penny-pinching drink culture would make alcoholics of us all.

No doubt many people do drink unhealthy amounts, particularly in Scotland and run-down working class areas across Britain. But the problem is not drink as such, nor even a broader ‘drinking culture’, but rather the hopelessness and lack of control over circumstances that drives people to drink destructively -even if they don’t live in sink estates...

Today’s moralism about drink does not offer salvation, but instead needless guilt and shabby authoritarianism. It is precisely because they have no inspiring vision for society that politicians turn their sights on our drinking habits. But we should not allow deeper social problems to be viewed through the prism of drink, and we should certainly not allow an aspect of life that for most of us means pleasure and conviviality to be transformed into a social problem in its own right. Drinking is nothing to be ashamed of, and we should stop pretending we think it is.


  1. Interesting. According to your poll at the moment, 97% of the drinkers who responded indicated that they'd had their first drink IN A PUB before they were over 18. Of course some of that last 3% may have snuck a drink at home as well.

    The reason I find this so interesting is the emphasis of the last few years on "Smoking As A Pediatric Disease" because supposedly 85% of smokers began (i.e. tried) smoking before age 18. Evidently drinking is far more of a "Pediatric Disease" than smoking is!

    I'm sad to say so, but I think you're going to see drinking far more "Denormalized" than normalized over the next ten years. The experience, skills, and tactics of the Antismoking Crusade will be brought increasingly to bear on the realm of drinking behavior now that the Puritans have seen how malleable people's thinking and attitudes are to the right kind of stimulus.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"


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