Thursday, 10 June 2010

Nice work if you can get it.

NICE - the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, an acronym which has superfluous left-wing sinkhole written all over it, is calling for minimum pricing on alcohol. The devil that's previously made work for the idle hands of smokers and old people for being burdens on the health system, has found a new target - or perhaps more accurately, reoriented its sights on a different area of the same target.

So if alcohol does become expensive, in the way of, say, cigarettes and fuel, will the put-upon masses actually consume less? I suspect not, but maybe we should examine why people consume more now. We know that alcohol is cheaper than ever these days, but is that the real reason people are slugging it back like Fanta?

In a society where we work such long hours in such cynical conditions (especially since the recession) in order to fuel our consumerist obligations to the Lord God Economy, it's clearly tempting to wash away the drudgery of that hell with a bottle of plonk or cans of Stella from their glorious loss-leader of two for ones and three for a tenner.

But we already know what happened when cigarettes went to six quid a pack, a huge black market sprang up, with even unhealthier cancer sticks from the Eastern bloc taking up the shortfall. Customs and excise are currently spending millions trying to cut it out. Nice save, there.

Similarly, when the price of diesel rocketed a while back, people began to steal it, from other people's cars, from garages, and from farmers, resulting in crime and death for at least one poor agriculturist. Isn't all this starting to sound a bit familiar?

And let's face it - if supermarkets are so keen to support this policy, it's for one reason only, because it will bolster their profits skyward in the confidence a competitor can't undercut, something they don't have now and base whole strategies around luring and keeping customers with. And let's be honest - if they cared that much about the effects of drinking and its burden on the NHS, they certainly wouldn't be stocking products like this:-

Hello Tesco. Catching them young, I see.

Nor emblazoning the booze aisles with England flags and associated product placement propaganda.

A Radio 4 piece about on Tuesday 8th June. (Listen again here) addressed to same issue to little firm conclusion. Unsurprisingly, Landlords and ladies are in favour of minimum pricing on alcohol (because it brings their trade gap down and will encourage more people to drink in pubs) and supermarkets as we said aren't too bothered about it either, for the reasons above.

So what's the real issue behind this? Whose beef is it? Wait a minute, government trying to save money, you  say. In more debt than we first thought, you say? NHS ring-fenced against cuts in order to win election, you say?

You smokers who like a drink and were recipients of a similar lambasting last time. You seriously didn't believe it would end with your quitting did you? How naive.

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