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Portman Group hits back at ‘radical’ report's suggestions, including MUP for England

Published:  14 September, 2020

The Portman Group has hit back at a new report which recommends the introduction of several ‘radical’ new measures for combating alcohol harm in the UK.

The group has said there is ‘little evidence’ to back up the recommendations of a new report from alcohol health experts, including Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), health professionals and MPs.

These include introducing a new minimum unit pricing (MUP) for England, similar to the system in Scotland, and an increase in alcohol duty.

It also advocates for a rethink of alcohol marketing, which it says “normalises” alcohol consumption and encourages consumers “to see it as a part of everyday life”.

There is little evidence to support this and the "need for the radical measures the AHA would like to see,” Portman Group chief executive John Timothy said.

“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’ low risk guidelines. Underage drinking is also on a consistent downward trend and almost all measures of alcohol-related harm are in decline.”

Timothy and the Portman Group criticised the picture painted by the report, including statistics which show a record level of hospital admissions related to alcohol reached 1.26 million in 2018/19.

The moderate majority in the UK, four out of five adults, drink within the Chief Medical Officer’s 14-unit per week guidance or do not drink at all (NHS England, Scottish Health Survey, StatsWales and Health Survey Northern Ireland), the group said.

In England, just 4% of adults are drinking at ‘higher risk’ (above 35/50 units), while in Wales it’s 2% (NHS England / Stats Wales).

The report’s full title ‘It’s everywhere – alcohol’s public face and private harm’, also calls for greater scrutiny around marketing, which largely falls under the remit of industry backed watchdog the Portman Group.

The group also pointed to the overall downward trend for irresponsible consumption and alcohol-related harms over the past decade, which reflects a “wider cultural shift towards responsible drinking habits”.

This includes a large decrease in consumption since 2004, where recorded annual alcohol consumption per capita in the UK has fallen by 13% (WHO).

Binge-drinking and underage drinking have also fallen, while alcohol-related violent crime has declined by 47% since 2009/10 in England and Wales.

In Scotland, the estimated number of incidents has also fallen by around half in the past decade (ONS / Scottish Government).