A Health Committee report has given a mixed, if not critical, verdict on the United Kingdom Government’s Alcohol Strategy published earlier this year.
Although supportive of some aspects of the strategy, including the headline announcement of minimum pricing, the report is critical of an excessive focus on binge drinking over health issues and the lack of a delivery framework in the strategy. It also speaks out on alcohol industry denial over alcohol advertising effects on consumption. Although not against the principle of the controversial responsibility deal, it warns it should not be a substitute for government policy and should be regarded as standard corporate responsibility, rather than something to be praised for.
Launching the Committee’s report, the Chair, Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP, said: [i]”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.”[/i]
Dorrell said the industry should not receive credit for the responsibility deal for this as it was their “civic duty” to act responsibly, but claimed the industry does not have a “sufficiently well-developed sense of what it takes to trade responsibly”. The report calls for an evaluation of the responsibility deal by Public Health England PHE, the new body establsihed by the Department of Health to lead on alcohol and other public health areas.
The report also wants Government to look into the possibility of introducing a version of the Loi Évin, a tougher regulation approach to advertising passed in France in 1991. Loi Évin bans alcohol advertising on TV and in cinemas, and prohibits alcohol sponsorship of cultural or sporting events. PHE are also called upon to evaluate the possible impact of introducing Loi Évin type measures .
Sir Ian Gilmore, the Royal College of Physicians’ adviser on alcohol, said more action was needed to “tackle the growing problem of marketing through digital, online and social media, to reduce children and young people’s exposure”. Last year Alcohol Concern produced a report on thethreat on of online alcohol marketing and an attempt was made to introduce advertising curbs through a private members bill.