Alcohol misuse ‘insidious and pervasive' and industry must do more, MPs conclude

19 July 2012 by
Alcohol misuse ‘insidious and pervasive' and industry must do more, MPs conclude

The impact of alcohol misuse is "insidious and pervasive" and the alcohol industry must do more if it wants to be considered a responsible partner in reducing alcohol consumption.

Those are two of the points made in a report released today by the House of Commons health select committee on the Government's Alcohol Strategy.

The committee said it welcomed the Alcohol Strategy but that its focus on public order overshadowed health issues.

The committee chair, Stephen Dorrell MP, said: "The main focus of the strategy is binge-drinking and its consequences for anti-social behaviour and public disorder. Those are important issues, but the health impact of chronic alcohol misuse is in our view also significant and greater emphasis needs to be placed on addressing that impact.

On the question of a minimum unit price for alcohol, Dorrell said: "The committee supports the decision to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol, but the Government needs to recognise that setting the price is not a one-off event. A transparent process must be put in place in order to ensure that the price level is evidence-based and is monitored over time to assess its effectiveness."

The committee also recommended a "sunset clause" on the implementation of a minimum price so that it remains in place only if it is shown to be effective in reducing harmful drinking.

The committee also concluded that:

â- The alcohol industry needs to acknowledge that its advertising messages do have an effect on attitudes to alcohol and on consumption if it wishes to be seen as a serious committed partner in the Responsibility Deal
â- Rules on the advertising of alcohol should be re-examined to reduce the likelihood of adverts being seen by or directed at young people under 18
â- Public Health England should undertake an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Responsibility Deal. It should also commission a study into the principles and implications of introducing the French Loi Evin
â- The Department of Health's work on which models of treatment provision are most effective in addressing the health issues caused by alcohol abuse is welcome. The evidence the committee received is that the establishment of Alcohol Specialist Nurse services throughout the country is one of those models.

"Striking the right balance on alcohol consumption is not straightforward. Most people enjoy alcohol without evidence of significant harm to their health, yet it is not possible to define what is a generally safe level of consumption as alcohol affects different people in different ways. Individuals who drink alcohol and the companies which sell it have an obligation to do so in a way which respects the rights and interests of their fellow citizens," added Dorrell.

By Neil Gerrard

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