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News: Our Economy Is Built on a Solid Foundation of Beer

If Brits stuck to recommended alcohol limits the economy would be £13 billion worse off. That’s absolutely wild.

by Joel Golby
23 August 2018, 12:49pm

(Photo by Emily Bowler for VICE)

Hello from my hangover, which I have to say rings like a bell, and hello also to this news, which feels… important? Bad? Genuinely quite uneasy about celebrating this because it seems like problem drinking is so endemic to our culture that we will never escape it? But also… it’s economically vital? Lads, listen: I’m racked here. I don’t know whether things are bad or good anymore.

Revenue from alcohol sales in England would plummet by £13bn if customers complied with the recommended drinking guidelines, according to a study that condemns the industry’s role in regulation.

Academics from the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) and the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group say their analysis shows the scale of the conflict of interest afflicting producers and retailers and that they should not be allowed to influence government policy on risky drinking.
Guardian, August 23rd


£13 billion is one of those figures which is at once head-spinningly enormous but also, in the grand and wide scheme of things, governmentally minute. Example #1: the national debt currently stands at £1,792.3 billion, so £13 billion is 0.72% of that. Example #2: the Treasury has put aside £3 billion to pay for Brexit over the next few years, so with the £13 billion I suppose we’ll have £10 billion over to pay ourselves back into the EU again, the cowardly little dogs we are. £13 billion would transform my life, for sure – if I were rich I would live the exact life of DJ Khaled, only with less of the music and more of the jetskiing over to Rick Ross’s house for a big lunch – but it doesn’t really mean anything in a wider context, does it. It’s not going to solve all our problems!!!!!! But alcohol might!!!!!!!!

Here’s the thing: the study speculates that a £13 billion economic shortfall would occur if everyone stuck to government drinking guidelines of 14 units a week, which would see an alcohol sales revenue drop of 38 percent (!). To get that back, the price of pints and spirits would go up (by £2.64 for a pint, and £12.25 for a supermarket bottle of spirits, raising average prices to £26.68 and £6.15, which not to be too northern about it but: it already bloody is! In London!). So, basically: it’s in alcohol industry’s best interest to keep us all drinking high, high above the healthy level.

Is it bad that the UK drinks as much as it does? The answer is: yes. As IAS policy analyst Aveek Bhattacharya points out in the Guardian, alcohol causes 24,000 deaths a year and 1.1m hospital admissions annually, costing the NHS £3.5 billion along the way, plus it makes loads of people tip sideways into public fountains. Heavy drinkers (>14 units a week) disproportionately fund the alcohol industry, making up 68 percent of revenue from just 25 percent of the population. Alcohol makes you fall over and flash your arse and fall asleep on buses, and it makes you piss yourself and your liver engorged and it makes you age faster and it fucks with your gums and teeth, and crucially it makes you send every text you have ever sent that you regretted, you have never once sent a regrettable text while not on alcohol. That goes for Instagram DMs, too! Don’t think Instagram DMs get away with nothing! £13 billion worth of Instagram DMs where just you say “hey :)” then wake up wanting to die!

But in a way I have a misty-eyed romanticism over the fact that Britain’s economy is partially built on a solid foundation of Going Town. £13 billion of our annual economy is predicated on getting a little bit carried away; it’s based on wobbling back to the table with a tray of shots and a tumbler full of lime wedges; our economy is sending peas with the Wetherspoons app, and cheering when someone drops a stack of pint glasses, and putting your arm round two of your mates, your body adopting a Christlike T, and saying: “Jäger?” The strength of the economy relies on us all having a big massive breakfast bap on the morning after a bender! 50 percent of sales of mints in the UK are to hide the sour smell of alcohol the reeks from our bodies on a hangover! Eyedrop sales! Lucozade! If you love this country – if you want it to succeed, to crawl out from the pit we are living in – then it is on you to Go Town tonight. Order six pints of lager and wash them down with a kebab. For Britain.

@joelgolby