Regional stereotypes notwithstanding, the news that people in the north of England drink more than those in the south is hardly an earth shattering revelation. Far more interesting is the definition what constitues ‘binge drinking’. Although not explicity stated the implication seems to be that simply exceeding the daily recommended level of alcohol consumption once a week marks one out as a potential alcoholic and social menace:
Some 29.2% of adults in Newcastle binge drink, followed by 27.6% in Liverpool and Durham. This compared with just 8.8% in East Dorset, consuming double the recommended daily limit – the equivalent of a large glass of wine for women and a pint-and-a-half of lager for men – in at least one session a week.
This is absurd! The mental image conjured up by the phrase ‘binge drinking’ is one of people, usually young people, being so drunk they are barely able to stand, staggering their way around town centres throwing up and generally causing trouble; even the images used to illustrate the article are in this vein. All of which is a very long way from someone having two whole glasses of wine with dinner, or having a pint at lunch time and then a couple after work.
I really don’t know what to make of this sort of research. Either it’s trying to create hysteria out of nothing, presumably to encourage supprt for yet more draconian policing; or the people in charge of these things are becoming increasingly puritanical and genuinely believe that a woman having two glasses of wine with dinner is a danger to us all.
A couple of years ago I’d have been inclined to belive the first explaination, now I’m too sure. With smokers now effectively demonised and shortly to be barred from pubs, alcohol is the next obvious target for those who feel the need to prevent anyone knowingly indulging in anything that is in anyway potentially harmful. The idea that alcohol would face the same marginalisation as tobacco may seem ludicrous now, but then the idea that smoking in pubs would be banned in twenty years would have sounded pretty ludicrous in 1987…