Chief medic criticises alcohol retailers

The UK’s chief medical officer has slammed the “irresponsible” methods used by retailers to sell alcoholic drinks as she highlighted their link to health problems and crime.

Sally Davies, the UK's chief medical officer

Sally Davies, the UK’s chief medical officer

Dame Sally Davies, the UK government’s principal medical adviser, used her annual report to express frustration at the decision last year to drop plans for minimum unit pricing – a move that was widely welcomed by the drinks industry – as part of wider concerns about the way alcohol is sold and marketed.

“I deplore the methods which retailers use to entice consumers to purchase ever-greater quantities of alcohol,” she said, pointing to examples such as multi-buy offer and arguing that too many on-trade outlets fail to include the 125ml wine measure on their menu, despite it being mandatory to offer this serve.

Davies echoed the claim made earlier this week by Rosanna O’Connor, director of alcohol and drugs at Public Health England, that UK per capita alcohol consumption had risen rapidly since the 1950s, despite acknowledging that levels have declined in recent years.

Noting the prevalence of drunken behaviour in soap operas, films and pop music lyrics “with negative consequences rarely shown”, she complained: “Drinking to excess is not ‘normal behaviour’, and portraying it as such is irresponsible.”

As well as highlighting the link between alcohol consumption and health problems such as cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer, Davies cited alcohol as a factor in 47% of violent crime.

“Despite these clear health and societal risks, retailers continue to sell alcohol using methods which I consider to be irresponsible,” she maintained.

While welcoming the government’s decision to ban the sale of alcohol below the cost of duty plus VAT from next month, Davies added: “I note that modelled data suggests that charging a minimum of 45p per unit of alcohol should be more effective in reducing premature deaths.”

Looking ahead, she confirmed that “an expert group” is currently reviewing evidence with a view to releasing new guidelines next year on the maximum quantity of alcohol that it is safe to consume.

One Response to “Chief medic criticises alcohol retailers”

  1. John Lang says:

    Once again we see “alcohol” labelled as the demon causing these health issues, and as a result we see all alcoholic drinks roped together into one category. The medical fact is that certain alcoholic drinks – namely good unprocessed wines – are actually very beneficial healthwise and actively reduce the risks of cancer and vascular disease, as well as having a host of other medical benefits.

    I agree fully that over indulging in the processed alcoholic drinks found on the high street is very bad for people’s health, and I also agree many retailers offer irresponsible promotions and sales tactics.

    It is high time that the truth about what we eat and drink was made public. Good real ale brewed without harmful additives is a healthy drink. Mass produced beers containing high levels of added sulphites are not.

    But as long as we label everything together as “alcohol” we’ll never have a clear message about what is healthy and what isn’t. And this kind of argument between health lobbies and the drinks industry will just run and run while UK cancer rates increase.

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