I was thrilled to read in the Hastings Observer that Hastings Borough Council is to take action to reduce the availability of super strength larger in parts of the town.
In Brighton and Hove, including London Road where we are based, there is a significant and growing problem with alcohol-related harm and anti-social behaviour resulting from the sale of super strength larger and cider.
I wrote recently about the success of the London Road Local Action Team in having a review of the alcohol licence of B&W Stores which has had its licence revoked.
I have also written previously about the campaigning work of the London homelessness charity, Thames Reach, and its inspirational chief executive, Jeremy Swain. Since 2005 they have been campaigning against these super-strength drinks and in favour of a rise in price.
If I may again quote Jeremy: “The price of White Ace cider, for example, apparently has no ‘floor’ with a 500 ml can now costing a mere 59p, half the price of methylated spirits, formerly regarded as the drink of choice of the park-bench homeless.
“Recently Wells and Young’s has produced an even stronger super-strength lager, Crest Super which, at 10% alcohol volume, offers five units of alcohol in a single 500ml. How this can be justified when the number of units of alcohol recommended by the Department of Health is 3-4 a day for a man and 2-3 for a woman …… (It) does indicate the many anomalies that persist with respect to the consumption of these drinks and which will only intensify if the issue of price is not addressed assertively through taxation.
“If a can of super-strength lager which can currently be purchased from a corner shop for £1 was increased in price to £2.50 for example, problem drinkers would undoubtedly move to purchasing cheaper, weaker lagers with immeasurable health benefits following.”
I have just spent a weekend in Dieppe. A group of 30 of us went over for the weekend to remember the late Peter Avis who championed the Brighton/Newhaven-Dieppe line. For more than 30 years he organised The Great Dieppe Trip where local politicians, journalists and people in the arts would relax and enjoy each others company and that of our Normandy compatriots. Peter sadly passed away last Christmas, and this ‘Little Dieppe Trip’ was organised by his daughter, Siobhan Dillon. We enjoyed a coffee in Place Peter Avis, the square named after Peter, and on Saturday night raised a glass or two to Peter.
How different is the café culture in Dieppe, just a few short miles away. Alcohol is, of course, very freely available, but in the café and bars it is perfectly acceptable to order, and dwell over, a coffee, tea, beer or soft drink.
In Britain we have yet to learn how to handle our drink. Perhaps a new Norman Conquest, one of attitudes and behaviour, is in order.