But retail and industry groups slam professors’ call for blanket drinks curbs
HEALTH warnings on beer cans and wine bottles could be on the cards if a health-related alcohol action group has its way.
Severe restrictions on the sale, packaging and advertising of alcohol, as well as minimum unit pricing and a review of licensing laws are needed to tackle problem drinking cultures in the UK, according to the Alcohol Health Alliance.
The Alliance – an umbrella group initiated by the Royal College of Physicians and including many other health-related Royal Colleges – outlined Health First, which it describes as “an evidence-based alcohol strategy for the UK”, in the British Medical Journal this month. It gives 10 recommendations including limiting the times of day when alcohol can be sold, curtailing advertising, carrying health warnings on packaging, imposing minimum pricing and making tax proportionate to ABV.
The report, by Professor Gerard Hastings from Stirling University and Dr Nick Sheron from Southampton University, claimed 10-15-year-olds in the UK see more alcohol ads than their parents. They wrote: “Alcohol marketing increases the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol, and to drink more if they are already using alcohol.”
Retail and drinks industry representative groups reacted angrily.
John Drummond, chief executive of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation criticised it for: “taking a blanket approach”.
“What is required is a targeted approach at people who are abusing alcohol, not a whole population approach,” he said. “A great number of people are consuming alcohol responsibly. We have unitary guidelines and many people abide by them.”
And Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, which has launched the Why Should Responsible Drinkers Pay More? campaign against minimum unit pricing said: “Consumers have made it very clear: they are opposed to minimum unit pricing. They do not think it is fair that responsible drinkers should have to pay more because of the actions of a minority of irresponsible drinkers. Not everyone who looks for value is a binge-drinker.
“We are absolutely committed to tackling problem drinking. Overall alcohol consumption has fallen by 13% since 2004 and drinking among young people in particular is also declining.”
“Rather than looking at the same old restrictions on price, availability and marketing, the Government should look at locally-targeted solutions, better education and enforcement of existing measures that have been shown to work.”
• The Scottish Parliament’s decision to initiate minimum unit pricing of alcohol is currently the subject of legal challenge.