WHY DON'T WE DRINK MORE LIKE THE FRENCH ... RESPONSIBLY
France, Germany, Italy and UK each have a similar size of population and standard of living. However, when it comes to drinking there are some wide differences.
In France, Italy and Germany alcohol consumption has been falling over the past couple of decades. Whereas in the British Isles, consumption has been rising steadily. In fact alcohol consumption in Ireland has increased by almost 50% over the past decade France and Germany and UK have roughly the same annual per capita consumption at a little over 10 litres of ‘pure alcohol’. Italy’s has fallen to less than 9, whilst Ireland’s has increased to top the European league table at around 15 litres per person per year.
What has become popularly known as the British (Irish) ‘disease’ of anti-social behaviour following irresponsible misuse of alcohol does not appear to be down to the absolute volume of alcohol consumed, but rather the pattern of drinking. In fact Britain, and particularly Ireland, have twice as many abstainers as do France or Germany. Unit consumption guidelines are the same throughout Europe, 3 or 4 per day for men and 2/3 for women. The industry shares the government’s concern over binge drinking, where the recommended daily unit allowance is usually ‘saved’ up for the weekend ‘binge’. Consumers in both Germany and France seem to spread their drinking throughout the week and drink more with meals, but do not, in general, celebrate their weekend by becoming inebriated and a nuisance to others.
Given that alcohol forms an enjoyable part of a healthy lifestyle for the vast majority. the problem we face is therefore how to encourage a change in the drinking patterns of the minority. The experience of the French, or Germans, appears to rule out increasing price and restricting availability as a possible solution, since alcohol is freely available and duty rates are much lower at only a small fraction of that imposed in UK and Ireland.
The government’s recent Strategic Alcohol Review has concluded that there is no quick fix. Rather, that the solution comprises a wide range of actions, including the promotion of a Sensible Drinking Message by both government and industry, education of young people to respect alcohol, the review and enforcement of drinking laws, responsible advertising and serving of alcohol products, community support services, etc.
The Northern Ireland Drinks Industry Group (NIDIG) has been active in its support by setting up a brand new and informative website (www.nidig.com); designing, publishing and distributing a guide leaflet for parents and teachers and working with other sectors of the industry to produce a comprehensive Code of Practice on the Sales and Marketing of alcoholic beverages in Northern Ireland. The code, the scope of which is believed to be unique in these islands, is due to be published before Easter.
For further information contact Frank Caddy 02890 422349 (firstname.lastname@example.org)