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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Buckfast Tonic Wine Symbol of Scotland's Entrenched Drinking Problems

Alcohol has been a part of society in the United Kingdom since ancient times. The drinking age in the UK is 5 years of age in private, 16 in public with a meal and accompanied by an adult, and 18 years old otherwise. One's ability to procure alcohol with such ease plays a part in the number of alcohol related incidents and high rates of alcoholism. What particular alcohol is taking the brunt of the blame for the drinking problems in the entire country of Scotland? The New York Times reports that, "Buckfast Tonic Wine has emerged as a symbol of Scotland's entrenched drinking problems at a time when it is urgently debating how to address them". Buckfast Tonic Wine had a role in 5638 police reports in Strathclyde, Scotland between 2006 and 2009, according to the BBC. Buckfast is a sweet wine infused with caffeine, allowing consumers to be drunk and not pass out that being the typical route for an inebriated person; it has been given nicknames "Wreck the Hoose (House) Juice", "loopy juice", Coatbridge Table Wine, and my personal favorite "Who're you lookin' at?".

Buckfast is not some new 21st century drink, it's made by Benedictine monks at an abbey in England and it gained popularity early on in the 20th century; the tonic was commonly prescribed by doctors for down-in-the-dumps miners and sold at local drugstores. The drink is 15 percent alcohol by volume, the recipe calls for as much caffeine as eight cans of Coke. Unfortunately, Buckfast is not the cause of alcoholism, removing the drink from the shelves will just steer the consumer towards a bottle of something else. Five years ago Scotland's Justice Minister, Cathy Jamieson, called on liquor stores to limit or ban sales of Buckfast; Jamieson claimed that Buckfast was directly “related to antisocial behavior". Her plan backfired when protesters surrounded her during a speech chanting "Don't Ban Buckie" - Buckfast sales only increased.

The Scottish government said in a recent report, "for a large section of the Scottish population, their relationship with alcohol is damaging and harmful - to individuals, families, communities and to Scotland as a nation". The key word in the above statement is "Alcohol", not one kind in particular; pointing out one brand of booze and creating a scapegoat will not fix the problem. Education and treatment are the surest way to promote healthy living in any society. Singling out "Buckie" will only create spike in sales. Alcohol is Alcohol!

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