Policies and individual choices are normally seen as completely separate, but in reality they merge. So why not ring in the New Year by road-testing some effective alcohol strategies at home?
We all set some rules, or policies, for our homes, for example. Few let outdoor shoes go beyond a certain threshold. Weaponry, road vehicles, fire, smoke and harmful chemicals also typically have their perimeters.
These are not prohibitions. They are regulations. By crossing borders we can have access to all of the things verboten in some places. Out there is a target-shooting, tanker driver who only smokes when scrubbed up, unarmed on the veranda.
The regulatory systems of our private lives often operate on the basis of unwritten policies picked up from parents, partners, and common sense. They offer an easy way to keep a safe, livable and inexpensive environment.
These policies are typically adopted and applied without any democratic mandate. But we will also, sometimes, decide to set new policies, often through a process of thought, negotiation and compromise.
So why not consider adding evidence-based alcohol policies to the mix. We might take, for instance, government policies reckoned to curb harm at a population level as a starting point: increase the price, and reduce availability and marketing.
A few calculations might allow us to set a minimum unit price. This we might do by identifying products which are below it. Or we might levy a alcohol per unit “tax”, setting aside revenue for household running costs and infrastructure.
Implementation of these might be complicated. Perhaps an easier option would be reducing alcohol availability. We might bar keeping alcohol at home; Or to limit the stockpile; Or not put what we have in the fridge; Or, maybe, not to buy online.
Limiting home availability would have a knock-on effect. It bumps up the price of alcohol at home, imposing on inhabitants the cost of leaving the house to buy it. This also gives us a chance for second thoughts.
Reducing marketing exposure is trickier, because alcohol advertising targets us without our consent. But we can reduce it, by putting alcohol brands out of sight at home. We can also filter some online ads. And we can try to avoid alcohol retail.
Harmful levels of drinking are best addressed with the aid of medical advice. But making our own environments less alcohol loaded makes low-risk drinking the easy option. And home drinking is the source of the bulk of alcohol harm.
We all set and live by policies to create environments which are safe and best serve our needs. We need politicians to do this for us in environments we share. ■