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Parliamentary group calls for tobacco-style health warnings on alcohol

Published:  11 August, 2014

A group of MPs has called for cigarette-like health warnings on all alcoholic drinks, as well as a lower drink driving limit.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse has also called for these tougher sanctions around alcohol misuse to be governed by a single government minister.

The group's report says: "Health warnings are a familiar and prominent feature on all tobacco products. Likewise, detailed nutritional labelling is ubiquitous on food products and soft drinks.

"Yet consumer information on alcohol products usually extends no further than the volume strength and unit content. In order to inform consumers about balanced risk, every alcohol label should include an evidence-based health warning as well as describing the product's nutritional, calorific and alcohol content."

MP Tracey Crouch said: "The facts and figures of the scale of alcohol misuse in the UK speak for themselves: 1.2 million people a year are admitted to hospital due to alcohol; liver disease in those under 30 has more than doubled over the past 20 years; and the cost of alcohol to the economy totals £21bn. There must be a more thorough and full package of measures which tackles the problem more effectively and reduces the costs to people's health of alcohol-related crime and treatment."

But she also stressed that the measures called for were "not designed to end or curtail people's enjoyment of alcohol" in moderation.

The report also backs minimum pricing, and calls for public health to be introduced as a fifth licensing objective "based on local population health need and the density of existing outlets".

Trade reaction

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, described the proposed measures as "heavy handed".said: "The latest trends show that per-capita consumption is now less than it was in 1979 and drinking amongst young people has fallen to its lowest level since records began. 

"Instead of heavy-handed regulation, which is unlikely to deter the heaviest drinkers, we need to focus on targeted interventions which are proven to reduce alcohol misuse. 

"By working in partnership with government, the industry has already taken bold steps to include health information on labels, remove 1 billion units of alcohol from the market, future proof its funding of Drinkaware and rollout industry-led initiatives like Community Alcohol Partnerships."

Sarah Hanratty, deputy chief executive of the Portman Group, siad: "Government statistics show that awareness of both alcohol units and daily guidelines is increasing, and to continue these positive trends the alcohol industry voluntarily committed to improving health labelling on alcoholic products. In July, Minister for Public Health, Jane Ellison MP confirmed that industry has met its target by achieving 79.3% on its pledge to feature important health information on 80% of labels on shelf by the end of 2013."

The report outlines 10 measures it would like to see brought in, including:

  1. A new alcohol-harms minister
  2. Minimum unit pricing
  3. Public health as a licensing objective
  4. Strengthen the regulation of alcohol marketing to protect children and young people
  5. Increase funding for treatment of problem drinking
  6. Health commissioners should widen net when it comes to identifying problem drinking
  7. Health warning on all alcohol labels
  8. Mandatory training for social workers, midwives and healthcare professionals on parental substance misuse, foetal alcohol syndrome disorder and alcohol-related domestic violence
  9. Cut the blood alcohol limit for driving in England and Wales to 50mg/100ml, starting with drivers under 21
  10. Introduce the widespread use of sobriety orders