"Top doctors" have been busy over the last couple of weeks. Last week one of them suggested introducing a tax on chocolate, since it is unhealthy. Then this week another suggested that alcohol should cost a minimum of 50p per unit. What a good idea, I thought (which was the opposite reaction to hearing of the suggested tax on chocolate, but I'm ready to wallop anyone who points out the hypocrisy of my opinion). Not only would it cut the levels of binge drinking, when teenagers discovered that their two-litre bottle of Diamond White now costs £11, but they might actually do the maths and figure out that it must then contain 22 units of alcohol, and it probably isn't the best idea to drink the whole thing in one go. (Although if they are drinking Diamond White in the park, they probably aren't the type to be capable of doing the maths.)
I'm not one to get involved in politics much, but several years ago my alcoholic husband (now ex) and I went for a meal in a pub and each ordered a drink. His pint of beer was actually cheaper than my pint of Coke. I was so infuriated by this that I wrote to my MP explaining that pubs which charge that same or more for soft drinks than for alcoholic ones are actually encouraging drunkenness. My suggestion was that it be made mandatory for pubs to charge considerably less for non-alcoholic drinks than they did for alcoholic ones.
The MP was very good, bless him, and he contacted various departments including the DTI, but the reply was that it would not be suggested, basically because "we do not have price-fixing in this country." So I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that the idea to charge 50p per unit of alcohol was so firmly rejected.
All the same, it is worth knowing how many units of alcohol are in your drink, even if it's not reflected in the price. I recently revised LawCare's alcohol information pack and website pages, and checked the current safe levels of alcohol as recommended by the government. It is now 14 units for women, and 21 for men, spread throughout the week. More than this is considered harmful, and regularly drinking more than double this amount is classed as hazardous. (I would like to point out that these are limits, not targets, and that there is no such thing as drinking too little.)
I was troubled, then, by a conversation I had with an ordinary lawyer – not a helpline caller – who commented that many lawyers he knew were under great stress, and were in the habit of drinking a bottle or two of wine in the evening to unwind. A bottle of wine, I discovered, contains nine units. That means that a lawyer drinking just one bottle in front of the TV each evening is consuming three times the recommended amount over the course of a week. And if that lawyer happens to be female, it’s four and a half times the safe level.
How many bottles of wine have you opened this week?
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