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My View: Drinks trade must show government how marketing changes behaviour

Published:  18 January, 2007

Alcohol-induced liver disease develops silently, but often presents with an acute fatal illness. Where I work in the clinical hepatology at Southampton General Hospital, half our customers die.

Around 50-70% of people can change their heavy drinking culture when they really need to, but paradoxically there isn't much evidence that information campaigns change behaviour at a population level. The drinks trade must show government how marketing skills can change behaviour, but there must be a real reduction in harmful drinking patterns.

The abv of beers and wines, and pub measures of spirits, have increased by up to 40% over the last 30 years. The health impact of these changes has been huge, but public health probably played little part in discussions over product development.

The win/win result for producers and retailers must be slightly smaller portions of higher quality drinks containing slightly less alcohol - all sold at the full market price.

Nick Sheron is head of clinical hepatology at Southampton General Hospital