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Programmes | Last Order

Last Orders
By Jeremy Monblat, Programme Producer

There aren't many of us who can say that the only drinks we have tried are Communion wine and liquor chocolates, but that is Tony Benn's story.

The former MP for Chesterfield is a very rare example of a teetotaller in a society where most of us enjoy a drink. "I live on tea and tobacco and that suits me fine", Tony Benn explains.

Drink is a fact of life - so familiar and accepted in Britain that it is almost beyond question. Unlike the United States who tried thirteen years of prohibition between 1920 and 1933, Britain has stayed faithful to drink.

Lauren Booth: "I was out on the town whenever I could"  real 56k

In this third programme in the Booze series, we look at how prohibition in America didn't stop people from drinking and having access to drink.

In fact, according to Willey Radkey, who grew up during prohibition in Kansas, everybody flouted the ban on drink. "Everybody was making their own whiskey and even housewives would make a few gallons a week!"

In Britain we never had prohibition. The temperance movement was never that powerful and drinking and the pub are seen as a part of being British, making an important contribution to our happiness.

John Young, the Chairman of Young's Brewery, saw the importance of drink in World War Two first hand. "People went to the pubs because their homes were being bombed and it was really morale boosting to get beer still."

Jeremy Bowen: "Alochol is still important in wars"  real 56k

After the war, as women entered the workforce en masse, they also entered the world of public drinking. Today nine out of 10 women drink. We examine the growth in women's drinking from the first mass drink marketed at women.

Last Orders also considers what's been done to tackle the problems alcohol can cause. In the nineteen eighties concern mounted over the alcohol-related violence and "lager louts".

The drinks industry in Britain felt under real attack and feared the British government might dramatically push up prices.

Doughlas Kerr: "Mob violence like that is terrifying"  real 56k

"The industry's primary concern was survival", Dr John Rae tells the programme. He's the former head of the Portman Group - a PR organization created by the drinks industry in the wake of problems.

We look at what the government and industry did - and to what extent the problems have gone away.

And finally we examine the evidence behind the idea that alcohol, particularly wine, might actually be healthy - perhaps the case for moderate alcohol consumption isn't as simple as we first thought.

So why all the fuss about a little bit of health benefit that alcohol has for a certain part of the population?

Sally Wood: "Hopefully it's a lesson to other people"  real 56k

"The fuss serves a purpose of promoting alcoholic beverages but also for an excuse for people to say okay, I'm drinking but it also serves my health" says Cees Goos of the World Health Organisation.

"You are probably better off taking a brisk walk if you want that sort of health benefit, which is probably less of a risk than a drink."

You can watch Last Orders on BBC One on Tuesday, 26th March at 2235 GMT

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