Healthy living

Experts reject 'responsibility deal' on alcohol

alcohol Government 'in thrall' to business

Six major health organisations have refused to sign up to the government's 'responsibility deal' on alcohol, and accuse the government of being in thrall to the drinks industry.

The deal - due to be announced on Tuesday - is expected to consist of a number of voluntary pledges by the drinks industry on issues such as promoting, advertising and labelling alcohol, in an attempt to reduce harmful drinking.

However, the six organisations - Alcohol Concern, British Association for the Study of the Liver, British Liver Trust, British Medical Association, Institute of Alcohol Studies, and the Royal College of Physicians - say the government has prioritised the views of the drinks industry and not taken into account alternative pledges drawn up by the leading health organisations.

The alternative pledges included not advertising alcohol based on price, not advertising in cinemas for under-18 films, and health warnings on all drinks products containing alcohol.

They also said the pledges did not "adequately address" the need to reduce alcohol-related illness and death, and lacked an alternative plan if the voluntary measures proved to be ineffective in reducing levels of alcohol-related harm.

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: "There are no firm targets or any sanctions if the drinks industry fails to fulfil its pledges. It's all carrot and no stick for the drinks industry and supermarkets.

"The deal on alcohol is clearly the result of determined drinks industry lobbying coupled with a coalition government seemingly in thrall to business.

"By allowing the drinks industry to propose such half-hearted pledges on alcohol with no teeth, this government has clearly shown that when it comes to public health its first priority is to side with big business and protect private profit.

"All the evidence so far is that the alcohol industry has no interest in reducing alcohol consumption, and we will continue to call for laws to compel drinks companies and retailers to sell alcohol responsibly, with mandatory labelling, health warnings and reduced marketing."

This article was published on Mon 14 March 2011

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