The BBC asked me to comment on this story http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7944334.stm; they wanted my opinion, from the point of view of a front-line paramedic and author, as they did when the Government decided that 24 hour alcohol licensing was the way to break our binge-drinking culture. They were wrong then and they are wrong now I think.
I couldn't go live on television news to give my input, unfortunately, but I will here. The approach currently being taken by successive Governments in order to tackle binge-drinking is stupidly blind and out of touch. The pricing and availability of booze has very little to do with what's going on. Young people are setting off on a night out with the deliberate, pre-meditated intention of getting as drunk as possible. Only a small minority behave like this but they are the ones who are causing the problem. Facebook is full of admissions from young people who have been so drunk that they forget what they did or who they were with... or that they ended up in hospital 'drying out'. It's almost a badge of honour and it's becoming cultural. I said this on air back in 2008 when I was first asked to comment.
So, weak attempts at dealing with this by punishing everyone else (the usual British way) and increasing taxes and pricing on alcohol are futile. They simply won't work.
The big supermarkets are getting knocked constantly for selling cheap, discounted booze but they are in business to do just that with everything they sell! We don't complain when they offer us ten sausages for the price of eight, do we? However, if a brainless proportion of the population were stuffing themselves with so many piggy-filled wraps that they posed a health risk to themselves and a burden of cost to us all, then Hell yes - let's tax the sausages out of everyone's reach and let's impose a minimum price on each on, depending on the fat content. Let's tell the supermarkets how to run their businesses.
We are on the brink of insanity with this. Only one thing is required - good, solid, honest parenting. A return to strict control over children. We know they have rights - just don't keep telling them!
I was delighted to find this little snippet in the news too http://news.aol.co.uk/uk-news/story/man-flu-not-a-myth-say-scientists/1522949?icid=main|uk|dl1|link8|http://news.aol.co.uk/uk-news/story/man-flu-not-a-myth-say-scientists/1522949. I've been off work unwell recently and got myself into a complicated little scenario by becoming so. I had tried to book annual leave for three days when I knew this was coming (you can always sense a viral attack). I don't generally get ill but since starting work as a paramedic in London, I have been knocked off my feet a few times now. The stress of the job and the people we come into contact with erodes the immune system. Nevertheless, I still don't get THAT unwell and I rarely get Flu. Viral attacks tend to take me out for a while though.
Anyway, my leave was refused and I staggered into work feeling lousy and 'looking like shit', according to my colleagues. I bravely fought off the urge to slump at the desk until I couldn't concentrate any more, so I was advised to leave the premises and go home. Obviously, having applied for leave and being refused it, I now looked like a prize loser who was going on a 'sickie' instead - something I would never do. Sometimes you just can't win.
I spent a long, long weekend in bed, sleeping mostly and getting through it. Now I am due to go back to work and I still haven't fully shaken the damned thing off! So, I was warmed by that little report on my situation. Obviously, if it's been studied and it's in the news... it must be true.