A new report by MPs is set to warn that the alcohol industry is in the ‘last chance saloon’ and should face heavier regulation if it fails to take action to curb dangerous drinking.
The inquiry into the Government’s strategy on alcohol is expected to conclude that pledges by manufacturers to foster responsible drinking habits have come to nothing, with little action on binge drinking and too much marketing still aimed at the young.
In Australia one man believes that governments have got it wrong on binge drinking. Two years ago 25 year old Chris Raine from Brisbane set up an innovative website called Hello Sunday Morning .
‘I was working for an advertising agency and we were asked to design a campaign around binge drinking. I went to the pub with my boss to brainstorm some ideas and I suddenly thought this is ridiculous. I am trying to tell other young people why they shouldn’t be drinking and here I am downing pints of beer!’ he laughs.
Chris resigned the same day and started to ask himself some serious questions about his drinking and where he was heading with his life. ‘I decided to commit to giving up drinking for a year and record my experiences on a blog. People started sending in posts of support and that was how Hello Sunday Morning was born’ he adds.
The beauty of HSM is that it is an online entity which doesn’t require people to be in any particular place. It has no international boundaries and people feel free to dip in and out as and when they feel the need for online support. There is something unique about the anonymity of it which attracts people-the website now has more than 5000 HSMers supporting one another.
The rule of thumb is a three month break from the booze-enough time for people to undergo a fundamental shift in thinking about their drinking habits but short enough for them to fall off the wagon (if it really isn’t their thing). It has nothing to do with AA nor is it a finger wagging exercise about the horrors of binge drinking. ‘It’s a way of helping people take a break from drinking and get their priorities in order’ says Raine.
Izzy Lindsell is a 22 year old student who only began drinking on her 18th birthday but pretty soon became a binge drinker. ‘All my friends were pretty much drinking until they were so drunk they would fall over’ she explains. ‘I was beginning to do the same and it didn’t make me happy. I needed to rethink why I was drinking so much. It took a gap year trip to Ayers Rock to make me realize I wanted to stop for a while and reassess my life’ she says.
When she came home she discovered HSM and decided to give up drinking for a year. ‘It was really helpful to have all the other HSMers cheering me on. I have done it twice now but each time I fall off the wagon at five months. That seems to be my limit which is fine. ‘Stopping drinking for a while has helped me to realize I don’t need it to be sociable or for confidence. In other words drinking no longer defines who I am’ she says.
So could the UK government learn anything from HSM? Raine admits it is hard for governments to tackle the binge drinking culture. ‘They do their best but it’s usually too based in logic rather than passion or a narrative. The thing about HSM is it’s not prescriptive in any way. People just sign up and give it a go. It’s about people using it in whatever way they can and making any rules they want.
‘I would like to think that more social enterprises could be created to solve difficult problems that governments are facing and I can’t see any reason why these problems couldn’t be tackled in partnership over next decade or so’ he explains.