Try just saying no
Published:  19 October, 2007

It's not our job to stop drinkers becoming the equivalent of Jodie Marsh's tan

In the last issue, I read with amusement/irritation/boredom (delete as you see fit; they are all applicable though) the rehashing of the on versus off-trade debate about responsible alcohol selling. It's obvious that supermarkets selling cheap alcohol is a bad thing, but does it really contribute to the "binge drinking" culture in this country? Of course not. Is it damaging the industry and draining value from the market? Hell, yes.

As someone who enjoys a daily sluice of beer (or wine, at a push), I'm as guilty as anyone of occasionally having one too many. But equally, I've built up quite a stash of beers (and wines), and I manage to restrain myself from emptying the cellar every time I fancy a drink. Putting it simply, I'm responsible enough to have a few cases of beer (or wine) at home without feeling the need to drink them all. Am I that exceptional in that respect? Looking deep into the blackened void that passes for my soul, I regretfully have to concede that no, I'm not. A person who can't leave a few beers (or some wine) in the fridge for the next day has a problem.

And yet we have an extraordinary situation where we, as retailers or publicans, are responsible for policing people's behaviour. This isn't as cut and dried as not selling alcohol to under-18s - it takes exceptional diplomacy and guts to tell someone they look like they've had enough, if you can even tell accurately in the first place. I'd venture that by the time someone looks like they've had enough, they're past the point of paying attention to anyone telling them what or what not to do.

Hmmm, I'm getting agitated by the whole argument. Let's digress. I read this week that Jodie Marsh was voted as having the worst fake tan in the world, by users of fake tan product Xen-Tan. Whatever else one might think of Ms Marsh, we'd better stick to the easily verifiable facts; she is a funny colour, and this situation may have been brought about by the use of fake tanning products.

I wonder how this habit got so out of control? Presumably, she just used to be a social tanner, dropping into the salon once a week for a three-minute sunbed top-up and a chat with the girls.

I can see how it might get out of control - tanning's pretty cool, but if you don't watch what you're doing, things can get bad quickly. I wonder if someone at the salon said something to her about her excessive tanning? Perhaps not wanting a lecture every time she wanted to catch a few rays, she took to tanning at home, alone, and once you start doing that, it's a slippery slope. Soon, you need

some tan just to feel normal in the morning.

Or what about people who are carrying too much weight? I don't mean attractively rounded, or voluptuous, but medically obese. Should they have to suffer the indignity of a waiter interrupting them in the middle of their main course? "I'm sorry sir, but I think you've had enough, don't you? Maybe you should think about leaving and jogging home?" No, I'm not sure that would work either.

The point is, we are all free agents, and with that freedom comes responsibility. It's no good pointing at each other saying "but they're much worse than us". You need to look into that blackened void and ask yourself if your conscience is completely clean.

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