Whilst sitting in the barbers this morning, waiting my turn, I amused myself reading the latest Daily Mail alcohol scare story: ‘SHOCK RISE IN YOUNG GIRLS BINGE DRINKING’ read the headline. The gist of the story was that amongst that minority of 11 to 15 year olds who binge-drink (as opposed to just drink), girls are catching up with boys in terms of the quantity quaffed. Apparently an average male teeny tippler consumes 11.9 units of alcohol a week; but a mini-ladette 11.3 units – which is up by 18% compared with a year ago. Well, an 18% rise seems shocking, but that represents 1.7 units extra a week – or just over one bottle of Bacardi Breezer.
Actually, the number of boys and girls who claim to have drunk alcohol has declined by 15% - from 6 out of 10, to 5 out of 10, as has the amount they claim to be drinking. And numbers ‘having a drink’ is not the same as numbers ‘binge-drinking’.
So in fact what’s happening is an overall decline in the number of 11-15 year-old boys and girls drinking, and in how much they drink, but the decline is slower in girls. Shocking, isn’t it? So, Middle England can breathe a sigh of relief – no need to lock up your daughters yet! A number of other papers picked up the same story, including the Daily Telegraph, and linked it to ‘ladette culture’ (think suzzies and cowboy hats) and so once again the image of our industry portrayed to the public, and politicians, is seen through the lens of a night-time economy that is supposedly spiralling out of control.
I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but it is rather odd that this story, complete with lurid headlines, appears just as the Government’s lamentable licensing law reforms are being debated in Parliament. The calculation seems to be that if you reinforce stereotypes, you’re more likely to get a reactionary result. Sadly, I fear that assumption is likely to be vindicated.
On another note, what is being trumpeted as a £1 a day red wine ‘wonder pill’ is about to go on sale in health stores. This pill apparently contains a supplement derived from an anti-oxidant found in grape skins, and naturally present in red wine. Its makers claim it can help protect against Alzheimer’s, as well as delaying the ageing process and tackling obesity-related health problems. Its detractors say it has unpleasant side effects, such as insomnia, joint pain, diarrhoea and acne. Well that decides it for me - I’m cracking open a bottle of Shiraz tonight - and get the benefits without the downside!