Tougher action on Alcohol Misuse could cut down on £55bn

  • A group of medical organisations, the Alcohol Health Alliance, say that more needs to be done to reduce drink related problems.

    The medical experts demand that there are measures that need to be taken to educate and warn people of the risks of alcohol misuse, but has fallen on deaf ears with the Department of Health.

     In an attempt to tackle drink related problems, they want to limit the sale and promotion of alcohol in the same manor as cigarettes, including graphic warnings on alcohol packaging, increasing the minimum price for alcohol to 50p per unit and an end to drinks firms sponsoring sport.

    The alliance has written a report urging ministers to put the new measures in to place in order to reduce the £55bn annual cost of alcohol misuse.

    The Alcohol Health Alliance says that despite small changes made by the government already, current attempts to educate people about the risks of excess alcohol have not prevented the increasing drinking problems.

    The report, produced by Stirling University experts with the backing of a host of royal colleges, health charities and medical groups, said this fragmented approach had to end.

    Research has suggested a 50p minimum price would reduce consumption by 6.7% which after 10 years would mean there were 3,000 fewer alcohol deaths and 100,000 fewer hospital admissions.

    The alliance of 70 medical bodies and health charities is demanding that:

    • A third of the label on all cans and bottles of alcohol should be given over to a hard-hitting warning about the health dangers of over-consumption
    • A ban on all alcohol advertising and sponsorship. That would stop alcohol manufacturers paying millions to have their name on teams' shirts or in the title of a competition - such as Budweiser, which sponsors the FA Cup in England
    • Drink sales in shops and supermarkets should be restricted to certain times, and alcohol products sold only in designated areas, to reduce "pre-loading" - in which people drink cheaper shop-bought alcohol before going out
    • A hike in the price of high-strength products, such as certain wines, to discourage consumption
    • Local councils do more to stop the proliferation of premises selling alcohol in certain areas
    • The drink-drive limit should fall to 50mg per 100ml of blood - amounting to no more than a single pint of beer


    Sir Ian Gilmore, the AHA's chair, said action was especially urgent given that UK teenagers drink much more than the European average.

    Sir Richard Thompson, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said the report shows the need for the government to continue with it's commitments to reduce alcohol abuse, as the 50p minimum unit price will not only prevent an estimated 3,000 drink-related dealths, but also 40,000 crimes annually in England.

    But the Department of Health said:

    Cigarette-style health warnings are not applicable to alcohol. All levels of smoking are bad for your health, but the same cannot be said for alcohol consumption.

    The department argues that action is already underway to improve the detection and treatment of alcohol problems. Officials agree that information on labels could help consumers make healthier choices, but the industry's labelling policy is considered to be sufficient.

    Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group, which represents the UK's leading drinks producers, said:

    What we need are targeted solutions focused on those individuals and local areas which require the most help, not nationwide marketing bans which are proven to be ineffective in reducing alcohol misuse.

    The UK drinks industry has voluntarily introduced a wide range of measures to encourage responsible drinking including health information on labels, an independent complaints process and strict codes of practice which ensure alcohol is marketed responsibly - we must focus on finding local solutions to tackle specific alcohol-related problems, not penalising those who are drinking sensibly.


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