A small round of applause for Liberal Democrat MP, Donald Gorrie.

Not for unexpectedly snatching Edinburgh West from Lord James Douglas-Hamilton one action-packed year ago last Friday, but for being the first MP to make a crucial connection during leader of the House Ann Taylor's Commons statement on the white paper, Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain .

Pray, what connection was that? I hear you ask. A very simple one actually. Nice, sensible Mrs Taylor, whose day job is that of leader of the Commons, not Drugs Tsarina, had been unveiling that package of measures to help stop hospital A&E departments being packed with the consequences of drug abuse. Education and prevention, not reaction, will be the dominant theme from here on, she told MPs.

Since we spend over£1bn on reaction of one kind or another (the overall cost is nearer£4bn), the sum of£5m failed to impress. 'Only£5m', as The Guardian put it. 'Fine words, but no new cash', said The Independent , one of whose editorial factions has been campaigning for legalisation of cannabis, hash, weed, gear, whatever the kids are calling it this week. The Mail , as usual, was horrified: 'Children of six to get drugs lessons', screamed its banner headline.

MPs are not so daft as folk think. They face the consequences of the misuse of controlled drugs all the time in their constituencies, affluent suburbs as well as inner cities. There were no shrill moralising cries in the House.

They know the need to educate kids; indeed (as Cambridge's Anne Campbell pointed out) the need to educate their usually more ignorant parents and grannies as well.

But back to Mr Gorrie, aged 65 and a teacher by trade. What he did was link drugs education with the need to make young folk more aware of the dangers of alcohol. Mrs T agreed. 'Many are the same ones who abuse drugs and are truanting or excluded from school. We cannot look at these problems in isolation, ' she agreed.

Two days later Tory MP Marion Roe, former health select committee chair, staged a Commons debate on alcohol misuse. Violence against women and children (Mary Bell? ), teenage suicide, mental health, crime and car accidents - a long, familiar litany. Booze is involved in 26 per cent of drownings, 39 per cent of deaths in fire, a quarter of workplace accidents.

What I hadn't spotted before was the British Association of Maxillo-Surgeons' report that 70,000 facial injuries are drink-related, from falls to pub brawls. The MP complained that drink was the poor relation, tacked on to anti-drug strategies, even though that was 'better than nothing'. Tessa Jowell agreed, cited her assault on alcopops, and promised that the new Substance Misuse Advisory Service is now treating drink and drugs on 'equal terms'.

As for Our Healthier Nation 's four famous targets - heart/strokes, accidents, cancer, and mental health - yes indeed, drink was a 'significant factor' in them all, the public health minister conceded. Under-age drinking is a crucial, growing trend and George Howarth, junior Home Office minister in charge of the inter-ministerial group (you note how many ministries are involved here) is on their case. He has kids of his own and lives on Merseyside. Not much ignorance there, I expect.

We used to live in Washington DC where, needless to say, they were far ahead of us on both the problems and solutions, school guidance included.

How I well remember our seven-year-old coming home with little gems about alcohol and about that white powder - what was it called? - cocaine. The following year they taught him about safe sex.

And there's the rub. Our impression was that the kids were too young, too inexperienced, to differentiate. They earnestly learned their lessons but failed to distinguish in their tiny minds between the occasional dry sherry and a£200-aday crack habit.

The danger, surely, is that once they find that watery US beer is pretty harmless the young may readily discard other advice too. There is a reckless excess in the US teen behaviour which I do not detect at home among the party-going E-poppers. As one 17-year-old wrote last week, 'we're going to take them anyway. Be realistic, teach us the precautions to take.'

That sound sensible, if unheroic. Consequences and precautions are the best we can do.