Banning the substance altogether will never work because, even if it was prohibited throughout the World, it can easily be made from natural ingredients and where there is human desire there is human ingenuity. We will come back to human desire later.
The next option is to impose restrictions. Most countries have minimum drinking ages such as the United States which imposes an age of 21 or above. Other measures include drink driving fines, pricing strategy and advertising controls and “micro” measures of zones in which drinking is prohibited.
Two of the strictest European countries in relation to alcohol policy are Sweden and France so we look at their policies, consumption and abuse figures below.
Sweden has a strict state monopoly on sale and supply of alcohol, restricting imports on the grounds of public health. It also has one of the lowest permitted blood alcohol concentration levels for drivers.
In France, the Loi Evin law restricts adverts for alcohol and tobacco on TV and bans the transmission of sporting events from other countries if they have alcohol adverts on display. They also restrict the sale of alcohol at petrol stations and the sale or supply to persons below 18 (and includes other restrictions).
Despite the above restrictions (which flout EU law as a barrier to free trade and are only allowed on the grounds of public health) France and Sweden have no lower alcohol consumption rates than countries such as the UK.
The European Commission Committee on National Alcohol Policy says there is a need to unify data gathering mechanisms within the EU so that the effects of alcohol policy can be better measured and compared. Until that is done it seems that all these policies and controls do nothing but provide jobs for the lawmakers and tax revenue for the State, while alcohol problems continue unabated.
Alcohol Problems and Government
It should be noted that the State gains financially from its alcohol policies. When Professor David Nutt, UK Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, claimed in October 2009 that alcohol was more dangerous than cannabis and ecstasy, he was sacked by Gordon Brown’s Government.
Professor Nutt had called for an independent scientific body to make alcohol policy based solely on Public Health issues, outside of Government control because Government was too easily swayed by the might of the drinks industry, advertisers and tax revenue.
It seems that the solution to alcohol problems needs to be found on an individual level and with sensible laws and controls. What causes a human to destroy themselves as an effect of alcohol abuse and not care who they take with them?
Most religions, spiritual philosophies and scientists agree that humans have desires that need to be understood by each individual so that they can learn appropriate behaviour to deal with it themselves. The responsibility of the individual to tame desire in order to reduce alcohol problems will be discussed in another article.