Here's a scoop on the next shock-horror story that's about to break in one of the red tops. "Young people spotted drinking sensibly in pub... no aggro on the way home!!!" OK, we exaggerate. But if you read the tabloids regularly, you're given the impression that British youth is thrashing about violently in a sea of alcohol. Drunkenness and the mayhem it creates seem endemic. How long before some papers begin campaigning for Prohibition? It's against that artificial, media-hyped background that senior figures in the trade are nervously attempting to introduce some common sense into the debate. Nervously, because as soon as you admit that drunkenness and social disorder are ways of life for a small proportion of the drinking population, then you give hostages to the anti-drink brigade, who will manipulate your admissions out of all recognition. It's the perception that things are out of control on the high streets, which has lead to such a potentially authoritarian Licensing Act. This will give local authorities unprecedented power to tackle problem drinking. And as local politicians must respond to voters who are constantly reading about drunken youths in their papers, we can all see what may happen. The licensed trade will be asked to dig deep into its pockets and pay for the consequences of drink-related social disorder. Responsible operators will, therefore, lose money, thanks to the unscrupulous few who serve cheap drink like there's no tomorrow. The only way to minimise those costs is to stamp out the bar bandits. No one is currently doing that. The Portman Group patrols the already on-side retailers: it's powerless to deal with the cowboys. Diageo is showing the way. It asks its pubco customers to ensure their lessees promote sensibly. It's also running strong "drink, but stay in control" adverts. But who else is helping them? Where are the other major drinks producers and retailers in this debate? Unless there's an industry-wide initiative, and soon, there's very little chance of tackling the problem.