UK watchdog the Portman Group has slammed proposed measures from the Alcohol Health Alliance to combat alcohol misuse arguing they would “disproportionately penalise” those who drink responsibly.
The independent Commission on Alcohol Harm was established by alcohol health experts, including Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), and parliamentarians to assess the full extent of alcohol harm across the UK.
Following the report, health professionals and MPs are asking the UK government to create an alcohol strategy to ‘get to the heart of the nation’s drink problem’, arguing not enough is being done to tackle harmful alcohol consumption.
The final report recommends moves such as the introduction of minimum unit pricing in England, restrictions on alcohol advertising and marketing, including ending sport sponsorship, better information for consumers and ‘challenging alcohol’s position in our culture’.
However, the Portman Group has condemned the report, arguing there is “little evidence” to support its findings.
John Timothy, Portman Group chief executive, said: “There is little evidence to support the need for the radical measures the AHA would like to see. The UK is on an evolving journey in its relationship with alcohol and has made major strides over the past 20 years.
“Almost four in five UK adults either choose not to drink or stay within the CMOs’ [chief medical officers’] low-risk guidelines. Underage drinking is also on a consistent downward trend and almost all measures of alcohol-related harm are in decline.
“The small minority of people that persistently misuse alcohol need targeted support to break the damaging cycle of dependency. That is a difficult but important task that has the industry’s full support.
“But it cannot be used to justify a tranche of new measures that would disproportionately penalise ordinary men and women who enjoy a drink and do so responsibly.”
The AHA argues the measures put forward in the report would help protect not just those with a harmful relationship with alcohol, but also their family and friends.
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the AHA, said: “When people think about alcohol harm, they often think about liver damage – but its impact goes much further than this.
“This report highlights the very real ways that alcohol can devastate not just the life of the drinker but those around them. If we wish to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic as a healthier society, we much address the ongoing health crisis of alcohol harm.”
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Author: Melita Kiely