One of the identified causes of binge drinking in the U.K. is the ready availability of cheap alcoholic beverages in supermarkets (see: Binge Drinking in Wales; Trends in Alcohol Consumption Across OECD Countries). Some efforts are now underway to try to correct this problem (see: Tesco Supports U.K. Alcohol Rules; subscription required). Below is an excerpt from the story:
Britain's biggest supermarket said it supports the U.K. government's plan to ban the sale of alcohol at prices below cost, in response to proposals designed to curb binge drinking and rowdy behavior. Tesco,...the country's biggest retailer by market share, also said it would support any government move to set minimum prices on beer, wine, alcoholic cider and spirits—a measure that has been much-debated in the U.K., but not explicitly proposed by the country's new coalition government. The U.K. has been struggling with a rise in alcohol consumption that many people contend is fueling public disorder and violence. Health experts say cheap supermarket alcohol, irresponsible barroom promotions and longer pub opening hours have contributed to the problem. Binge-drinking became an issue during the election campaign, with all the parties vowing to crack down. The government this week said it would take a range of steps to curb alcohol abuse, including banning below-cost sales; giving police stronger powers to yank licenses from pubs that over-serve customers; and allowing local councils to permanently close any shop or bar "persistently selling alcohol to children."
A friend suggested to me that the litigious and tort law environment in the U.S., when compared to that in the U.K., may serve as a brake on binge drinking in bars in this country. The reason is that bar owners here can more easily be sued for allowing patrons to overindulge and then cause harm by drunk-driving or other acts. I am not sure whether this theory stands up to close scrutiny.
I'm personally very enthusiastic about having our states pile on higher alcoholic beverage and cigarette taxes as a means to raise revenue and also decrease consumption. Of course, this will be only short-term solution. Similarly, I am pleased that the Brits now understand that there are both heath and social consequences from selling alcoholic beverages below cost in supermarkets. It would also help if the British legal system treated public inebriation in a more serious fashion (see: Britain's gone soft on drunks: Shame of being found paralytic in street disappears as convictions fall by 75%). It is said that there is much less public stigma for drunkenness there and the excerpt below from this article suggests that this is true:
Drunken behaviour is raging unchecked because offenders are escaping with a 'slap on the wrist'. A dramatic collapse in prosecutions has been blamed for removing the shame of being found paralytic in the street. Doctors' leaders expressed alarm at figures showing the number of those convicted of or receiving a police caution for drunkenness has slumped by more than three quarters in the last 30 years. In the past, those found drunk would have been prosecuted, leading to the shame and publicity of a court appearance, or given a police caution. Both of these alternatives would have led to a criminal record. But in many cases nowadays they are either being let off completely or given fixed-penalty notices owing to intense pressure on frontline officers to hand out fines as a 'quick-fix solution'....Just 17,421 people were convicted of drunkenness in 2007, compared with 97,165 in 1981, the last year for directly comparable figures.