Drinking is ingrained in our social life – much as cigarettes were until public health campaigns led to a huge cultural shift. With many young people eschewing alcohol, the beginning of the end of booze Britain is in sight
Mon 23 Apr 2018 17.00
More than a quarter of 16- to 24-year-olds are teetotal, according to a 2017 study.
A cool glass of sauvignon canalside in the summer. A soothing beer by a pub fire as the leaves turn red. Mulled wine with a Christmas mince pie. Alcohol is shot through British life like, well, shots on a night out. But recent trends suggest that might be changing. Could the British love of booze be drying up as surely as our passion for cigarettes?
Consider this: in 1974, half of British adults smoked; by 2017, that figure had fallen to just 16%, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The decline was a result both of public health campaigns and legislation encouraging people to cut back or stop smoking. In 2003, for instance, the branding of cigarettes as “light” was banned in the UK. That same year, EU legislation brought in health warnings on products, and in March 2006 Scotland became the first country in the UK to introduce a smoke-free law. This was followed in 2007 by legislation banning smoking in workplaces and enclosed public spaces in England (Wales and Northern Ireland also legislated against smoking that year).
The result was immediate: fag breaks at work were suddenly more frowned upon; the huddle of people outside the pub failing to light a cigarette in the driving rain came to seem pitiful. All the incremental changes – the health warnings, legislation, the images of diseased lungs on fag packets, the association with impotence – led to a genuine cultural shift. If you wanted to keep smoking, you had to be really committed (addicted, maybe?). Social and fairweather smokers dropped away.
Could the same trend be under way with our attitude to alcohol? Some experts believe so. It will be a huge shift, because drinking in the UK has a spirited history, stretching back thousands of years – jugs for fermenting alcohol go back to the stone age, past Hogarth’s Beer Street and Gin Lane in the 1700s through to the peak modern drinking period of the 90s and early 00s. This was the Britpop era: a wasted Jarvis Cocker mooning at Michael Jackson at the Brit awards in 1996 and the hideous proliferation of garish alcopops with brand names with no vowels. That period also saw a breakdown in the social taboos around women’s drinking that led to an explosion of alcohol being marketed to them. Witness the birth of the ladette and girlfriends drinking boyfriends under the table. Witness a massive overall rise in consumption.
As a society, we have always thought of drinking as a bit naughty. The language we use is telling. A “cheeky pint” after work; a “swift half”; “OK, but just one glass of merlot”. Everyone has feigned resistance at one time or another – but we don’t try very hard. And in recent decades, anyone who didn’t want to drink was considered an anomaly. You driving? You sick? You on antibiotics? You pregnant? You, you know … (whisper it) in recovery? An answer of none of the above would elicit raised eyebrows, a puzzled expression or, more likely, mirth. Possibly even anger or dislike. In years past, people who have chosen sobriety, or rarely had a drink, have been subject to intense peer pressure. Non-drinkers became isolated – not out of preference, but because British social life has been entirely organised around alcohol. Booze sat at the head of the table at dinner parties, dominated the dancefloor and landed deals at lunch meetings.
But over the past decade, that culture has shifted. It has certainly been difficult to avoid the news that alcohol isn’t good for you. The most recent reminder came last week, care of a Lancet paper, reporting that every glass of wine or pint of beer over the daily recommended limit will cut half an hour from the expected lifespan of a 40-year-old. And that recommended upper safe limit is lower than you might expect. The paper suggested five 175ml glasses of wine or five pints a week – about 12.5 units in total. Overdo it, and you are at greater risk of stroke, fatal aneurysm, heart failure and early death.
Then there’s the cancer risk. There was consternation in 2016 when Prof Dame Sally Davies, the government’s chief medical officer, told MPs just one glass of wine could increase the risk of breast cancer. This came just a few weeks after the recommended upper safe limit for men was revised down from 21 to 14 units a week, the same as for women.
The quality newspapers interview health experts and sociologists about the problems with alcohol; the popular press shames indulgent punters (usually northern, often women) on dark high streets, hitting the chip shops at 3am. That picture of the woman lying on her back on a bench, sozzled, gets wheeled out. And there have been all sorts of schemes and campaigns designed to curb our enthusiasm for drinking. There’s the Department of Transport’s road-safety Think! campaign, for instance, much of which has focused on drink driving. In 2012, Andrew Lansley and the Department for Health rolled out the Change4Life campaign, while Challenge 25, introduced in 2005 by the British Beer and Pub Association, encourages people who may look under 25 to carry ID when attempting to purchase alcohol, and encourages retailers to ask for it. This has made it harder for groups of teenagers to bulk buy supermarket-own tinnies. (Attempting to enter licensed premises to buy alcohol using a fake ID is a criminal offence, carrying a maximum £5,000 fine and up to 10 years imprisonment.)
All of this legislation, campaigning and awareness raising has had an impact, just as they did on tobacco consumption. In particular, millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) and the later Generation Z (those born after 1996), are surprisingly sober.
“Alcohol is a strange concept,” says Ben Gartside, 19, a politics student at Hull University who is originally from Manchester. “Here’s a liquid you can drink and it can lead to you not remembering the night before and making bad decisions.” Ben is typical of many young people I speak to, in that he prefers to spend his money on food and travel rather than pub sessions.
Another young person I speak to says his family are heavy drinkers and he wanted to avoid falling into that pattern. In a broader sense, says Dr James Nicholls, director of research and policy development at Alcohol Research UK, this is quite common among young people; they are rebelling against older generations’ chosen methods of rebellion. According to a 2017 ONS study, more than a quarter of 16- to 24-year-olds are teetotal, a four-fold increase on the rest of the population, with just one in 10 seeing drinking as “cool”. Nicholls says that drinking among young people has been declining for a decade.
The Poll is now in its ninth year of publication and explores Australia’s attitudes towards alcohol, drinking behaviours, awareness and experience of alcohol harm, and opinions on alcohol policies.
Key findings this year include:
The report, along with a series of short videos, is available at www.fare.org.au
“When you quit drinking you stop waiting.” — Caroline Knapp
On December 8th, with a tequila hangover, I decided to put the bottle down for 30 days of sobriety. Which meant I was sober over Christmas. Which means I was sober over New Years Eve.
With 21 days of sobriety under my belt, this is the longest I’ve gone without alcohol since I drank my first wine cooler at 17 years old. That sentence alone is enough to shock me into clearing out my liquor cabinet.
I’m not claiming addiction, but my relationship with alcohol was not getting me any closer to the person I wanted to be. Hangovers made me lazy and complacent. I would put off work until the headache went away, and I would use my weekends as an emotional crutch to the frustration and stress I felt during the workweek.
I used alcohol to avoid dealing with difficult emotions. I used it as a crutch when I got stuck creatively. It was the thing I went to when the words or ideas stopped flowing, or when the real work of being an entrepreneur began. When I kicked off my 30 days, I wrote an article about unfollowing any alcohol-centric Instagram accounts (you can read the article here). I can say this has definitely helped me in being successful at staying sober this time around.
Being sober has been life changing, here’s 21 reasons why.
1. I’m getting quality sleep
2. I’m more aware of my body
3. I’m hydrated, and it shows
4. Speaking of energy. . .
5. My diet has improved
6. I’m saving money
7. I’ve realized people and moments are more important than the booze you pair it with
This is a funny one. Alcohol is joyous, right? Well. . .in my case, no. Yes, there are joyous occasions in which we celebrate with alcohol, but if you take the booze away, it’s still a celebration. I’ve had a hard time feeling nostalgic for moments I’ve celebrated or cemented with alcohol. Like popping that bottle of champagne on a snowmobile after saying ‘I-do’ to my husband the day we got married. But I’ve realized in being sober that I’m more grateful for the moment and the people I’m celebrating with than the alcohol I’m using to celebrate with. Being sober in joyous moments has made me more present, more attentive, gentler and more patient.
8. I have more time (and energy) to do things that bring me joy (not just a buzz)
When you don’t spend your nights at happy hour, or your weekend mornings catching a buzz at brunch, you have a lot more free time to cultivate new hobbies, or habits that bring you actual fulfillment and joy. Instead of chasing a buzz, I’m spending my time on personal growth, cultivating a healthy marriage, experiencing life, trying new things, and diving deeper into my creativity.
9. My shame around alcohol has disappeared
When I’d wake up with a hangover, my shame would pound just as hard as my head. I would lay in bed thinking “real entrepreneurs don’t wake up with hangovers all the time, they would never waste time like this.” It’s no secret that the most successful entrepreneurs capitalize on being peak performers. You can’t access peak states when you feel like shit or when your brain is foggy. I knew alcohol was keeping me from performing at my best, and so I developed a pretty intense shame around drinking. But, now that I’m not drinking, this shame has also disappeared.
10. Sobriety has convinced me I can do hard things
I’ve tried to ‘get sober,’ drink less, drink once a week, only have one drink per night, etc., for the last couple of years. I chased my tail for a long time and would slip easily off the wagon at the first whiff of a party or glass of Malbec. My constant failure made me believe that I was in fact a failure. It’s what Benjamin Hardy calls self-signaling. Through my behavior of constantly failing at a seemingly simple task (not drinking alcohol), I was convincing myself that I was in fact a failure incapable of sticking to anything I set my mind to. Now that I’ve stuck to it, I’m rewriting my subconscious and convincing myself that I am in fact capable of doing hard things, of finishing what I start, of being successful. This effect is spilling over into other areas of my life as well, like in my writing career.
11. I’m learning to be me again
Alcohol does this funny thing where it lowers your inhibitions and makes us more confident in being or acting a certain way. When I stopped drinking, and went to my first party, I realized how awkward I felt, how boring and introverted I was sober. But in shedding this crutch, I’ve realized a lot of my life I’ve been living from a guarded and inauthentic place. I wasn’t letting the world see who I am, and I was stifling my personality because it felt too scary to be my vulnerable, messy, human self. Now that I’ve removed the alcohol crutch, I’m discovering who I am behind the wine and tequila. It’s difficult and incredible. It feels uncomfortable, but it’s the most sure I’ve ever felt.
12. I’m learning a lot of fun stuff
13. I’m learning to speak my truth
14. When I speak my truth, my relationships improve
15. I remember things now
Like the details, the small things that make up this beautiful life. Details like the constant hum of crickets, birds and geckos in the jungle. The small things, like the metronome tempo of the ocean breaking against the beach. All sorts of beautiful things that alcohol blends together into nothingness, those are the things I remember and live for, and I’m grateful to experience them every day.
16. I feel healthier
Alcohol is a toxin, as soon as you drink it, your body has to do the difficult work of cleansing your body of it. Which means while your body is busy flushing the toxins out, it’s not healing. Just knowing I haven’t put alcohol into my body makes me feel healthier, like I’m doing my beautiful body a huge favor.
17. Sobriety has put me ahead of the curve
18. My healthy lifestyle isn’t being immediately thrown in the trash by boozing
19. Sobriety has made me realize how distracted I was
20. Sobriety has proved to me that my identity isn’t fixed.
21. I wake up feeling great
The older I get, the worse my hangovers are. One glass of wine would give me a hangover, the shame-scaries, and make me sleepy by noon. Now I wake up at 5am with energy, purpose and a clear head. It’s the best way to start the day.
Take Action! Your writing career begins and ends with your lifestyle, environment and mindset. I created a free training, which distills my years of writing struggle, so you can create a life and environment that supports your writing dreams, without wasting years of your life.
Mar 8, 2018
In its 132-year history, Coca-Cola has produced a panoply of drinks alongside its signature soda, including bottled water, juices, sports beverages and an Indian refreshment described as “spicy,” “mature” and “masculine.”
This year, the company is mixing in booze.
In Japan, a fiercely competitive market where Coca-Cola says it introduces 100 new products each year, the company plans to test a flavoured, bubbly drink spiked with alcohol.
Coca-Cola has never before ventured into the so-called alcopop sector. But fizzy drinks made with alcohol, fruit juice and sparkling water or soda, a category known as chu-hi in Japan, are popular across the country.
The new drink is the latest idea from a beverage maker that has expanded to new markets with an array of products as the sugary-soda industry, battered by concerns about its health effects, continues its multi-decade decline.
In 2016, Coca-Cola said it unveiled the equivalent of nearly two new products globally every day.
Jorge Garduño, who has led the company’s Japanese division since July, said in an interview on the Coca-Cola website that the chu-hi gambit was “a modest experiment for a specific slice of our market”.
Coca-Cola said it had no additional details about the drink, and no plans to offer it in other markets.
“I don’t think people around the world should expect to see this kind of thing from Coca-Cola,” Mr Garduño said in the interview.
While many markets are becoming more like Japan, I think the culture here is still very unique and special, so many products that are born here will stay here.”
The term chu-hi is an Japanese amalgamation of the words “highball,” a mixed drink, and “Shochu,” a spirit that can be distilled from rice barley, sweet potatoes and other ingredients. Chu-hi drinks are available across the country. Some are concocted on the spot in restaurants, but most are sold in cans at supermarkets, convenience stores and liquor shops or in vending machines.
The beverages are typically more affordable than other alcoholic drinks because their alcohol content, which is usually from 2 to 9 percent, means they are taxed less than stronger drinks.
Nearly 6000 Australians are dying from alcohol-related diseases each year. (AAP)
Nearly 6000 Australians died as a result of a disease linked to alcohol in 2015, the National Drug Research Institute has found.
Alcohol-related diseases are being blamed for causing the deaths of nearly 6000 Australians each year.
A study by the National Drug Research Institute at Western Australia's Curtin University has found an estimated 5,785 people aged over 15 died from alcohol-attributable causes in 2015.
Just over a third died from alcohol-attributed cancer, with injuries, cardiovascular disease and digestive diseases linked to 17 per cent of deaths.
"This research shows that in Australia, one person dies every 90 minutes on average, and someone ends up in our hospitals every three-and-a-half minutes, because of preventable conditions caused by alcohol," NDRI alcohol policy team leader Professor Tanya Chikritzh said.
Breast cancer and liver disease were the main causes of death for women, while most men died from liver disease and bowel cancer.
As well as the 2000 people who died from alcohol-attributable cancer, another 13,000 were hospitalised with cancers linked to low or moderate drinking levels.
Terry Slevin, education and research director at Cancer Council WA, said many people would be shocked to learn that more than one third of alcohol-related deaths were linked to cancer.
"We rarely see people with a cancer diagnosis link their drinking to the disease," he said.
"We have a long way to go to embed the notion that drinking alcohol genuinely increases risk of cancer and death."