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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton  


         Phil's Diary September 16, 2009



Down-under the influence

Disturbing developments in the Antipodes. The Australian Department of Health & Ageing (no, they aren’t talking about whisky) has just brought out a report into the nation’s drinking habits which ventures that employers should try to curtail their employees’ drinking – after work!

The heavily jargoned-up document refers to the workplace as an “alcohol harm-intervention setting” on the grounds that 6.6 per cent of workers have turned up for the job drunk at some point over the past year.

Australia is at the cutting edge for this kind of stuff. In an interesting turn of phrase the report classifies Aussie drinking culture as “calculated hedonism”. Which presumably means they try to enjoy themselves. What a terrible thing.

There’s a different formulation in the BMA’s report Under the Influence which is essentially getting at the same thing: “Excessively pro-alcohol social norms”. This means most people like a drink.

For the BMA this is the root of the issue. New Temperance is founded on a statistical correlation between the number of problem drinkers in a population and the overall consumption of that population. To be truly scientific, though, you need a causal link. So drinking problems are caused by those pro-alcohol social norms rather than, say, social deprivation, which has a strong correlation with alcohol-related deaths but is obviously a bit of a hot potato when it comes to doing anything about it.

Wethering the storm

J D Wetherspoon had a good recession last time around, and the pub group looks like it could repeat that this time. Not only did it post record figures earlier this week, it's gone onto the offensive, announcing that it'll open 40 new pubs this year, trialling a range of new drinks and dumping Carling in favour of Carlsberg as its pouring lager (not that I can tell the difference).

Though it's easier said than done, this is exactly what you're supposed to do in a recession - rather than cut back and keep your head down, go out there and seize the opportunities. Let's hope it works for JDW, anyway. Otherwise I'll look a bit stupid.

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