The use of alcohol as a matter of routine should not be sanctioned before the age of twenty-one years. Certainly none should be taken at school. A glass of wine may perhaps be allowed on festal occasions at home, such occasional indulgence not only teaching the value of moderation and restraint, but affording opportunity for discovering the existence of a congenital susceptibility towards alcohol - and to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Except in special cases, those who are already abstainers should be encouraged to remain abstainers.
Degenerates of all kinds, and those, whether degenerate or not, with a family history of inebriety, should be urged to be lifelong abstainers.
In advising as to the use of alcohol the question of expense must not, as it too often is, be ignored. With many it is a consideration of the first importance. A married man earning, say, a pound a week, can ill afford the luxury of alcohol. If he and his wife spend four pence a day on drink, an amount which represents very moderate drinking, the weekly drink bill totals two shillings and four pence, or nearly an eighth of the entire earnings. The spending of so large a proportion of the income on alcohol is injudicious, even when there are no children; when there are children, it is unjustifiable. Much, perhaps three-fourths, of the poverty and misery of the masses is the result of their improvidence, and while it is very generally recognized that drunkenness is in large measure responsible for the distress, it is not so well recognized that even the temperate drinkers among the poor spend far more money on drink than their wages justify. It has been calculated that the average sum of money spent each year on alcohol by the working classes in this country, per family of four, is over fifteen pounds. This with interest represents nearly £100 in five years.
While sanctioning the use of alcohol with the above reservations, we insist always upon the importance of drinking none but sound beverages. The poor should avoid spirits. The gin which is largely consumed by the poor women of this country is for the most part of inferior quality, and the whisky, which is the more popular spirit with the men is, as obtained on draught at the public house, a still more pernicious drink, seldom being much more than a year old, whereas it is not fit for consumption until at least eight years after distillation. Beer, again, the most popular of all alcoholic drinks with the English proletariat, often leaves much to be desired in the matter of purity. With this, as with their other alcoholic beverages, the poor show their customary improvidence. If obtained by the barrel - a practice contrary to their hand-to-mouth methods - a sound beer can be got for a shilling a gallon, which is at the rate of three halfpence a pint, i.e. less than half that charged at the public house, where they get an inferior and often adulterated article. Similarly, by buying his whisky by the bottle the working man could secure the very best kind at a lower price than he gives for his nips of raw poisonous spirit at a bar. Unfortunately he often has so little self-restraint that even if he possesses the foresight to store his own liquor, he cannot trust himself with a supply always ready for use.