Drink, A Greater Menace Than Drugs

On Wednesday 19th February Manchester residents braved the drizzle to gather for an evening of intellectual debate at the Albert Square Chop House.  Discuss Manchester, a project based on Manchester’s history of debate, hosted the divisive topic, Drink, A Greater Menace Than Drugs, with ADS Chief Executive Lady Rhona Bradley chairing.

On arrival the audience were asked to express their opinion; the poll was inconclusive with an even split between those for and against the motion and plenty of people undecided.  Describing ADS’ years of experience in providing drug and alcohol treatment, it was left to Rhona to introduce the debate and present a neutral voice on the topic.

Kick-starting the debate was Alan Higgins, Director of Public Health for Oldham, who was arguing for the motion.  Alan started with some hard hitting facts, including, parental misuse of alcohol is a factor in over 50% of child abuse cases.  Building on his argument, Alan stated that the drinks industry has played a big role in creating a culture of normality towards alcohol, with the UK’s drinking culture sustained by their stance.

Offering the counter argument was drinks industry mogul William Lees-Jones, Chief Executive of JW Lees Manchester brewery.  Lees-Jones acknowledged that the drinks industry could do more to promote responsible drinking, although he stated that drinking in itself is not a crime and a pub can be a positive influence at the heart of the community.  He argued that drugs, including the criminal gangs that are inevitably associated with drugs, have a much wider impact on society compared to the regulated drink industry, and as a whole, the drinks industry is compliant with legislation and encourages responsible drinking.

Before the panel summarised the main points of their arguments questions were taken from the floor.  Many interesting points were raised, including, legal highs and alcohol advertising.  Both points were acknowledged from the panel, with Rhona Bradley saying more needed to be done to address legal highs and their ever evolving make-up, and there was a shared consensus on the need to address alcohol advertising and encourage responsible drinking.

In summary Alan Higgins said more needed to be done to address the UK drinking culture which is costing lives and the economy.  Although acknowledging the need for greater education of alcohol harm, Lees-Jones summarised that drugs have a greater harmful impact on society and the wider implications of drugs do more harm than alcohol.

All that was left was for the audience to cast their votes.  The results were close, but with a margin of two the motion was opposed.

Have you got any views on Drink, A Greater Menace Than Alcohol? Do you think the audience voted the right way? If so, we’d love to hear it, so get involved on our Facebook page.

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