CHARLES GRAHAM - Weaker beer won’t change society

Pint of lager

Pint of lager

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IS watering down beer really going to be the longed-for cure to Britain’s binge drinking epidemic?

The Government is currently looking at this well-intentioned proposal as the latest pitch at tackling a huge social and health problem.

But it seems to me that it will just allow brewers and bars to charge the same amount of money for a diluted version of a product as they did when it was stronger.

Meanwhile bingers will just buy more of the stuff (further boosting the producers and retailers’ profits) in order to reach what is their desired state: ie retching in the gutter while picking a fight with a lamp post.

My daughter has just had a French exchange student staying with us and she confirmed our suspicions that the French now regard Britons as a nation of old soaks.

When I lived in French a quarter century ago we Brits were all football hooligans. So while we have done much to address one unpleasant social disease as far as foreign perceptions are concerned, we seem only to have replaced it with another one. And it is no use saying that folk have a distorted view of us either - there is definitely a big problem.

I’m afraid that drinking to oblivion has become so much part of a certain British type’s culture, that knocking a couple of percentage points of strength off a pint isn’t going to make any meaningful difference.

Some brewers have already announced they are planning to reduce the potency of some of their ales because of tax changes which make it more expensive for them to produce a brew stronger than five per cent proof.

There is no universal cure for our country’s booze problem but I think educating our teenagers in school about the physical consequences of liquor excess and trying to get young people to engage in lots of non-alcoholic activities (pubs and clubs aren’t the be-all and end-all of social lives) would be a more useful area to explore.

I think someone who happily downs the equivalent of 20 pints on a Saturday night isn’t going to save his life or liver on discovering that strength-wise his booze intake is now only equal to 19 pints in old money.