You pays your money...
The Government has announced that it intends to ban pub lottery games which a number of companies have introduced.
The Home Office Minister with responsibility for gaming, George Howarth, told MPs, without any hint of irony, that it is socially dangerous to allow such potentially addictive activities into pubs. He said, "There has been a longstanding concern on the part of all governments about the mixture of alcohol and gambling in certain kinds of premises." Ministers are said to be worried that the new games will be aimed at pubs used by the poor.
Inter Lotto defied the government's wishes and went ahead with its launch on 27th November.
The Home Office Police Research Group has revealed a disturbing practice growing in rural communities, of young people injecting alcohol as a means of achieving a quick high. They are exploiting the ready availability of alcohol as opposed to illegal drugs. There is evidence of children as young as 14 injecting spirits, or even cider and beer, intravenously. The result is instant drunkenness since this method makes alcohol seven times more powerful than when taken as a drink. Around 10ml of whisky, less than half a measure, is sufficient to put someone over the drink-drive limit if injected.
Injecting alcohol can introduce bubbles into the blood stream, blocking the flow to the brain and inducing a stroke. It is also very easy to inject a lethal dose, especially as control of quantity is unlikely to be a priority with users of the technique.
Workers in alcohol rehabilitation have encountered this phenomenon before, but usually in people in the advanced stages of dependency and not with any marked frequency. "It is madness to even think about about injecting alcohol," said Dr John Connolly, of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Strathclyde University.
In a recent article, The Sunday Times interviewed a number of young people who had experimented. Lindsay, 18, a history student at Newcastle, injected bourbon whisky in order to win a drinking competition. "I wanted to show I was madder than anyone else." Presumably she succeeded.
The Home Office researchers chose Driffield in Humberside as a representative rural town. They found that drug abuse in general is increasing in such communities, as it has in cities. Although experts in the field say that the number of people injecting alcohol remains small, they are fearful of an increase.
A penny a pint...
Shepherd Neame, the small brewery based at Faversham in Kent, which claims to have been particularly badly hit by cross-Channel traffic in beer since the opening of the Channel Tunnel and the lowering of restrictions on imports, has taken the government to court in an attempt to have the last Budget increases in duty on beer declared illegal.
Lawyers on behalf of the company argued that the extra 1pence on the price of a pint of beer, which comes into force in January, contravenes European law requiring states to harmonise duties across the European Union. Mr Justice Keene, sitting in the High Court, granted leave for Shepherd Neame to seek a judicial review.
Member states of the EU are required to work towards excise duty harmonisation and forbidden to introducelegislation that contravenes the principle of the single market. Shepherd Neame has been granted a High Court hearing to decide whether the 1pence increase in duty breaches this principle. It is almost certain that the case will have to be decided in the end by the European Court in Luxembourg.
The Government is confident that it is well within its rights to apply the increase in duty and it is questionable whether the arguments put forward by brewers in general about the adverse effects of cross-channel traffic in drink are valid.
Statistics of UK alcohol consumption over the last few years do not reflect any major impact of cross-channel imports, legal or illegal. The trends in overall consumption, the consumption of individual drink types, and in on-sales do not appear to have been greatly influenced by the single market. The conclusion of the Treasury Select Committee that "industry claims that cross border shopping is primarily responsible for declining sales, particularly in the public house sector, have to be treated with considerable caution" appears to remain the case.
In the light of the fact that consumer expenditure on alcohol, per capita alcohol consumption, and, therefore, Government revenues, all increased in 1996, it appears that a substantial proportion of cross channel imports consist of additional purchases rather than ones which would have otherwise have taken place in the UK.
The Treasury Select Committee also concluded that "it is the brewing industry's costs and profit margins which have driven up the cost of beer, and until it addresses these issues the industry cannot expect the taxpayer to subsidise its operations by reducing excise duties."
The Government has set up a commission into the problem of cross channel smuggling and fraud.