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ALCOHOL POLICY – CAN WE LEARN FROM HISTORY? NDSAG Annual Conference 2013 Dr James Nicholls – Research Manager, Alcohol Research UK.

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Presentation on theme: "ALCOHOL POLICY – CAN WE LEARN FROM HISTORY? NDSAG Annual Conference 2013 Dr James Nicholls – Research Manager, Alcohol Research UK."— Presentation transcript:

1 ALCOHOL POLICY – CAN WE LEARN FROM HISTORY? NDSAG Annual Conference 2013 Dr James Nicholls – Research Manager, Alcohol Research UK

2 Where alcohol is concerned, history is often appealed to but rarely accurately…

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5 Lesson #1 British drinking cultures are not static

6 Changing culture 18 th century – port, coffee, tea and spirits popularised; elite male hard drinking culture; gin drinking among urban poor 19 th century – rise of temperance across social groups; diversification of beer and pub trade; peak in consumption of all drinks c.1880 Early 20 th century – steep decline in consumption; reduction in pub- going; alternative leisure activities Mid-to-late 20 th century – introduction of lager; rise in wine consumption; increased home drinking; development of NTEs; peak in consumption c. 2004

7 House of Commons Health Committee (2010) Alcohol HC151-I, 14

8 House of Commons Health Committee (2012) DH Written Evidence (GAS 01)

9 Royal Commission on Licensing ( ) Drunkenness has gone out of fashion …

10 We should get the beer drinking habit instilled into thousands, almost millions, of young men who do not at present know the taste of beer. Sir Edgar Sanders - Chairman of Brewers Society (1933)

11 Source: BBPA Statistical Handbook 2010 Source: Health Committee – Alcohol 2010

12 Source: BBPA Statistical Handbook, 2010

13 Lesson #2 Policy can influence culture

14 Policy and culture Licensing deregulation Gin retail 1690; Beer Houses 1830; wine retail 1860; off-trade 1961 Licensing restrictions Permitted hours 1916 Pricing interventions Spirits duty cut 1825; wine duty cut 1860; duties increased from 1910; Other interventions Resale Price Maintenance abolished 1964; Beer Orders 1990; local regeneration policies 1990s +

15 Royal Commission on Licensing ( ) What works… Further reduction of outlets Pub improvement Education in schools Controls on advertising

16 The alcohol problem in this country reflects a failure of will and competence on the part of Government departments and quangos. In the past Governments have had a large influence on alcohol consumption … Alcohol is no ordinary commodity and its regulation is an ancient function of Government. Health Committee Inquiry into Alcohol (2010)

17 Lesson #3 Policy impacts are unpredictable

18 Unpredictable outcomes 1736 De facto prohibition of gin Contempt for law; black markets; public disorder 1830 Beer Act Development of gin palaces 1860 Treat of Commerce / Refreshment Houses Act Additive effect, rather than switching 1990 Beer Orders Big Six replaced by … Big Six 2003 Licensing Act Neither café culture nor Binge Britain?

19 Lesson #4 Industry is powerful, but not unified

20 A disunited Trade 1830 Beer Act Small retailers v big brewers 1860 Treat of Commerce / Refreshment Houses Act Brewers (and temperance…) v wine merchants MUP / Beer duty escalator BBPA v WSTA; Greene King v Wetherspoons NB: Industry doesnt always get what it wants (and it doesnt always want the same thing…)

21 Recurring themes An ordinary commodity? Punishing the sensible majority The Great British Pub? Consensus and polarisation

22 Key points Drinking culture is dynamic – we are not simply a nation of boozers Policy can influence culture – culture is not divorced from price, availability etc. Policy impacts are unpredictable – history is important part of the evidence base Alcohol policy is about fundamental principles: What is the value of alcohol? What are the limits of the harm principle? What is the proper relationship between the state and the market?


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