I have pointed out repeatedly that drug use in Australia is under control. Cigarette, heroin, amphetamine and cannabis consumption are declining and alcohol consumption is roughly stable. It is the reason I don’t support moves to reform drug laws on the grounds that current laws have failed – they have not failed at all.
An article in today’s Age makes the same points about alcohol.
Alcohol consumption has costs and benefits – to an economist this suggests trying to get the balance right in consumption and to persuade consumers not to drink in risky situations – such as prior to driving a car.
Proposals to redefine ‘binge drinking’ (meaning socially excessive drinking) to mean the consumption of half a bottle of wine (3 standard drinks) do not seem wise. All activities involve some level of risk but this risk must be balanced against benefits. Telling people who are not driving that they should not enjoy a half bottle of wine is destroying too much enjoyment and not addressing dangerously high levels of drinking and situations of drinking before driving or operating machinery.
The moral panic that is developing needs to subside a bit and the very real problems of drinking that do exist should continue to be addressed. As usage of dangerous illicit and licit drugs decreases then efforts to further reduce harm will need to become more focused – targeting indigenous Australians makes much sense – but this does not mean further coercion across the whole community.