Drink is the new smoke

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Related tags: Smoking

As the smoke of battle clears following the ban, Adam Edwards argues that alcohol is the new demon now being targeted - along with dating barmaids...

As the smoke of battle clears following the ban, Adam Edwards argues that alcohol is the new demon now being targeted - along with dating barmaids

Victory was, I'm sure, sweet. Doubtless there were whoops of joy in the smoke-free rooms and high fives given by nicotine-free fingers. The anti-smoking brigade has won. It has gone as far as is humanly possible to ban the stogy, cigar and pipe without actually making tobacco illegal. Uncap the bottled water and break open the Hob Nobs.

There is still the mopping up campaign of course - draconian fines for dropping cigarette ends, possible prosecution for possession of a cigarette lighter, likely jail for those caught puffing on paternity leave - but basically it is, as Lewis Hamilton might observe, "job done".

But after the celebration comes the hang-over. Whither life now for those salaried smokeless warriors? The number of openings for those trained to prove that smoking a cigarette inside a pub is more dangerous than poking a stick at a roadside bomb in Afghanistan are few and far between. How will the nicotine-patch soldiers now earn a politically-correct crust?

The answer, I fear, is by a new high-profile campaign to demonise drink. And the first step in that campaign is to crack down on the middle-class wine drinkers.

"We want to target older drinkers, those that are maybe drinking one or two bottles of wine at home each evening," said a Whitehall spokesman. "They do not realise the damage they are doing to their health." (Oh yes we do. As the old saw goes: "If you resolve to give up smoking and drinking you don't live longer it just seems longer".)

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association is to investigate measures used in other countries to curb excessive drinking. By the end of next year all alcoholic drinks in bottles and cans will carry labels disclosing the number of units.

As the Daily Mail columnist Keith Waterhouse has pointed out: "Most people know their limits, but

they don't know their units. Units are to drinking what metrification is to miles - incomprehensible. In this country we drink pints and half pints and, alright then, if you twist my arm, just a

small one."

Nevertheless, units and the monitoring of them is now firmly on the way. It is the early stirrings of a British-style prohibition.

Going hand in hand with this new anti-drink fervour is, I notice, the proposed outlawing of sexy barmaids. Under Labour's new equality laws published last month, licensees who allow customers to make suggestive remarks to their barmaids - call her "love" or ask her on a date - could be hauled in front of an industrial tribunal.

It will not stop there, of course. When the wine has been turned into water and the barmaids dressed like Islamic fishwives, crisps will be targeted for encouraging obesity and darts will fall foul of health and safety laws. Soon going to the pub will be as much fun as a wet weekend in downtown Baghdad.

History has proved that one day the pendulum will swing back. Until then I suggest we race out to the last-chance saloon for a glimpse of cleavage, a bag of scratchings and a large unit.

Related topics: Legislation

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