ALCOHOL MISUSE: TACKLING THE UK EPIDEMIC
It describes pricing and promotion of drinks as fuelling an “alcohol epidemic” and called for an end to ‘happy hours’ in pubs and cut-price supermarket deals, as well as improved access to treatment. It added that a 10% tax hike could reduce alcohol-related deaths by almost 30%.
The report also said the drink drive limit should be reduced from 80mg per 100ml to 50mg per 100ml, which would effectively mean drivers could only consume a small glass of wine or one beer.
Alcohol consumption has been rising steadily for the past 15 years, with figures suggesting a third of men and a fifth of women drink more than the recommended levels each week. Alcohol-related deaths have more than doubled since 1991 to over 8,700 a year.
In contrast, the cost of beer and wine has remained relatively stable, meaning in real terms it has got cheaper as income has increased.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s head of science, said the government was too close to industry and had to introduce legislation to compel it to act.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA, added: “We are not saying alcohol is all bad – just that it should be drunk in moderation. “In that sense, it is a much more difficult message to get across than smoking.”
Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Tesco’s executive director for corporate and legal affairs, said action would have to come from the government, but it was willing to enter into discussions. “We can’t put up our prices because people will simply shop elsewhere – it could be commercial suicide. And we can’t act together to put up prices because that would be against competition law,” she said.
Don Shenker, Alcohol Concern‘s director of policy and services, said: “Ministers and civil servants are no doubt committed to bringing down alcohol-related harms, but it can sometimes seem from the outside that they’re ducking the big choices. The fact of the matter is price is a crucial determinant of how much we drink.”
But he also said treatment services for dependent drinkers were underfunded.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “The research team from the University of Sheffield has been selected and we expect initial findings in the summer.”