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World Health Organisation says alcohol ‘unhelpful’ coping strategy for lockdown

A World Health Organisation (WHO) expert has called alcohol consumption an “unhelpful” strategy to cope with boredom during coronavirus lockdown after retailers have been overwhelmed by surging wine, beer and spirits sales this month.

Alcohol brands have been warned against exploiting people’s boredom while they are encouraged to stay at home and distance themselves from others by offering discounts on booze.

The warning came a day after the UK government added off-licenses to its list of “essential” retailers that are allowed to stay open, while urging the closure of non-essential businesses such as clothing stores.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said that people should stay at home wherever possible and only leave the house when absolutely necessary, or for one form of exercise per day.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, retailers have now seen a sharp surge in alcohol sales as consumers have been stocking up while they spend the next few weeks indoors.

But Dr Aiysha Malik, a technical officer at WHO Europe’s mental health and substance abuse department, said that using substances such as alcohol to pass the time or alleviate stress during lockdown “can make things worse.”

Tom Harvey, co-founder of marketing agency YesMore, said: “This isn’t just about those people with a known drinking problem. We’re all isolated now; drinking to get through it and often drinking alone. This isn’t a good combination. This isn’t a time to be putting any extra strain on our bodies, or on the NHS.”

Harvey published a list of guidelines he believes will help brands to navigate the murky waters of coronavirus drinks advertising.

The marketing boss said retailers should be mindful of their messaging (i.e., steering clear of slogans such as “gin and bear it”), encourage customers to set their own limits, and encourage “off-days” from drinking.

Harvey also said retailers who are “brave enough” could, enforce a rule to “only sell alcohol alongside food during this time in an effort to look after your customers health.”

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