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Government promises tougher alcohol legislation

Published:  24 July, 2008

The drinks trade is not doing enough to adhere to its own voluntary standards code and tougher mandatory legislation may be needed, the government has said.

Dawn Primarolo from the Department of Health announced the plans following a recent KPMG report, which found voluntary alcohol industry standards were being ignored.

She said: "The evidence from this series of reviews, and the hospital admissions data, clearly make this the right time to consult on a far tougher approach to the alcohol industry.

"The drinks industry has a vital role to play if we are to change the country's attitudes to alcohol. Some sections of the industry are sticking to the voluntary codes, others are blatantly ignoring them. This consultation will decide whether legally binding regulations for retailers and manufacturers to promote sensible drinking are the way forward."

The consultation proposals would mean that the current voluntary retailing code could become mandatory.
This would mean retailers could have to:

? Restrict the way alcohol is sold such as offering drinks in small as well as large glasses or measures - too often only one size is offered or a large is automatically given
? Restrict happy hours or irresponsible price based promotions - women 'drink for free' promotions are still all too common
? Display alcohol in off-licence premises in separate areas - no more displays by the checkout
? Give point of sale information eg. on units, allowing customers to make an informed choice
? Train staff in shops and venues to recognise and refuse alcohol to underage or drunk customers

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has called for sensible drinking policies arguing that the strategy document does not solve the root problems of alcohol misuse.

Jeremy Beadles, WSTA chief executive, said: "The government's latest strategy document is simply pointing the way to higher prices for all responsible drinkers without solving the problem of alcohol misuse. Culture change will take time but we should start by enforcing the numerous laws we have and build on the education and information programmes acknowledged as successful by government.

"The drinks industry is demonstrating its commitment to change with programmes such as Challenge 21, Community Alcohol Partnerships and unit awareness campaigns. Let's tackle the real reasons why some people misuse alcohol; not make the rest of us pay the price."