Pre-loading on prohibitionist policies
It’s Friday: the weekend starts here. For millions of people across the UK (and our friends overseas, too), that can mean only one thing: meeting your mates, drinking a lot of alcohol, and having fun. It’s a nationwide wake for the brain cells we’ll be killing. And for many people, that big night out will start at home, in a modern tradition called ‘pre-loading’.
Basically, if money is tight, but you still want a night on the tiles, it’s a lot cheaper to get drunk at home and then go out. You get to warm up with your mates, listen to a bit of loud music, and generally get in the mood. But this week, Cliff Mann – president of the College of Emergency Medicine, which represents doctors in accident and emergency departments – warned about the dangers of getting tanked up before you leave the house. There is, apparently, an epidemic of pre-loading going on. Mann told the BBC: ‘The real danger with pre-loading is that overall people drink far more in one evening, and drinking to that excess means it’s much more likely they’ll suffer the harmful consequences of alcohol.’
Pre-loading is a natural response to the excessive cost of alcohol in pubs and clubs. If you want to get drunk – yes, people really do want to get plastered on a Friday and act daft – it makes far more sense to meet your friends at home, neck some vodka or a few cans between you, then head out on the town. Yet the geniuses in the public-health lobby think the answer to this problem is to make alcohol even more expensive – through minimum-unit pricing. Clearly, the response is likely to be even more pre-loading, not less.
But that’s not the biggest problem with minimum pricing. Increasing the cost of booze is a kind of ‘prohibition-lite’, with the aim of making it just too damn expensive to drink. It aims to take the moral choice about whether to have one pint or seven away from us.
There’s no good reason for such a policy. The vast majority of us who do decide to get Brahms and Liszt tonight will have a harmless good time. Why should we pay even more for the pleasure?