THERE’S been a fairly sustained period of seething from social drinkers like you and me in the wake of last week’s Budget speech.
Forget about grumbling smokers – they’re just puffing pariahs and they deserve every imposition piled upon them.
The same goes for porky pie eaters and other inveterate consumers of takeaway food, who will no longer be able to avoid VAT because they’re not tucking in on the premises.
Those of more mature years have been griping as well after the Chancellor decided to mug them, too. I’ve no doubt there are genuine cases of hardship around, but it seems that everyone over retirement age that I know is either splashing out on a cruise, spending far too much on bedding plants and garden improvements or generally enjoying the fruits of their comfortable pensions, so I take those complaints with a pinch of salt.
So let’s get to the most important issue – as I don’t smoke, rarely treat myself to a takeaway and still have plenty of years of toil ahead of me before I can put my feet up, it’s the attack on drinkers that is obviously weighing on my mind.
Everyone seems to be in agreement that there’s nothing wrong with supermarket special offers and other inducements to stock the drinks cabinet and save a few quid, just as there was nothing wrong with the occasional booze cruise in the days before the price of petrol made such cross-Channel jaunts uneconomical.
The problem comes when people who don’t have that many brain cells to begin with start to destroy what stock they have by necking ludicrous quantities of cheap booze. Even if they don’t end up in the gutter causing unpleasant work for the emergency services, they’re storing up just as many health issues as smokers and we’re all going to pay that bill.
But the answer will never be piling on the tax – have you seen the price of a packet of fags these days? You’ll never be able to wean the hard core boozer off the drink just by price, just as smokers always moan but find the extra cash they need every time their coffin nails get more expensive.
But we have seen at least some success for the hard-line education programme that has been forced on the tobacco barons in recent years.
The stark warning that smoking kills that’s plastered across every pack, the tasteful pictures of diseased lungs to help drive the message home – they’ve been winners, as far as I can see, if only by helping to steer the next generation away from getting into the habit in the first place.
A similar drive when it comes to drink is long overdue, if you ask me.
Forget those po-faced little messages urging us to drink sensibly in tiny type on the back of the bottle – it’s time to plaster pictures of pavement pizza, messages about brewer’s droop and all sorts of other ‘in your face’ information to make people think twice before getting another round in.
And we can all play our part, by not tolerating with a nod and a wink the oafish excesses of the drunk and incapable, and their horrid hangover excuses the next day, just as we no longer tolerate dolts who think they can drink and drive.