More than 70 health organisations from across the UK have backed a new independent alcohol strategy calling for the UK Government to prioritise Minimum Unit Pricing, amongst a set of key policies aimed at curbing the nation’s drink problem.
The strategy is put forward in the report, Health First: An evidence-based alcohol strategy for the UK, and was developed by a group of experts independent from government and the alcohol industry under the auspices of the Alcohol Health Alliance. There was unanimous agreement from the 70 organisations that a 50p minimum price per unit of alcohol sold should be the priority.
The group urges the UK government to adopt the measure to avoid England, Northern Ireland and Wales being left behind Scotland, which has already passed legislation for a minimum unit price of 50p per unit.
Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “Governments across the UK have begun to take action to reduce the harm that alcohol can cause. This action is very welcome but needs to go further. In developing this strategy, we considered the best available evidence about appropriate policies and interventions that are needed both to reduce drinking levels in individuals and reduce the damage to families and communities that alcohol can cause. The report provides a blueprint for action, now and in the future.”
Health First describes the direct effects of excessive drinking in the UK today and raises concern for future generations given levels of drinking amongst UK teenagers are significantly higher than the European average. The strategy outlines a comprehensive list of policy recommendations that together will help to protect children and vulnerable groups from alcohol harm. Alongside MUP, tougher restrictions on alcohol marketing are called for, as evidence shows that exposure to young people leads them to drink at an earlier age and to drink more than they otherwise would. The report also calls for empowerment of licensing authorities to tackle alcohol problems by controlling the overall availability of alcohol in their jurisdiction.
On the topic of alcohol marketing, the strategy recommends the following:
• All alcohol advertising and sponsorship should be prohibited
• In the short term, alcohol advertising should only be permitted in newspapers and other adult press. Its content should be limited to factual information about brand, provenance and product strength.
• An independent body should be established to regulate alcohol promotion, including product and packaging design, in the interests of public health and community safety.
• Alcohol producers should be required to declare their expenditure on marketing and the level of exposure of young people to their campaigns.