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Tackling the alcohol myths

Published:  18 January, 2007

Launched in a firestorm of media coverage on November 12, the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) has brought renewed attention to the debatearound alcohol and problem drinking in the UK.

Facing uninformed calls for increased taxes and restrictions on alcohol advertising, the industry must seek to tackle the growing disconnect between the facts and myths in the debate around alcohol misuse.

This was illustrated just days later by a report from Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Agency showing that new advertising regulations, together with efforts by the alcohol

industry, are having a real impact in reducing underage drinking.

The report also provided further evidence that alcohol consumption has dropped among young people in Britain. In just two years, the number of 11-13 year olds who have

never drunk alcohol has increased from 31% to 46%. Since 2002, there has been a decline of 31.1% and 39% in

advertising impacts amongst 16-24 and 10-15 year olds respectively.

Not only is there less alcohol advertising on television, but fewer young people report the advertising to be aimed at them.

While the AHA claims underage drinking is caused by advertising and low prices, its arguments disregard the facts. The Ofcom/ASA report adds to the growing evidence there are

deeper cultural issues behind underage drinking.

Calling for higher taxes or a pre-watershed ban on alcohol advertising is not going to solve this problem. We need to look for solutions that get at the root cause of anti-social behaviour.

The statistics show real progress is being made through the partnership between the drinks industry and government.

Programmes like Challenge 21 and Drinkaware demonstrate the industry's determination to reduce underage drinking and promote moderation and responsibility. These successes are often ignored by the media, but they are worth building on.

While the alcohol debate continues, it is crucial we stick to the truth. If the debate continues to ignore the facts, hasty

and misinformed actions will hurt consumers and the economy, while doing nothing to address the problem of alcohol misuse.

By looking at what works and building on our successes, the government, the health sector and the drinks industry can work together towards a healthier, safer Britain.

Jeremy Beadles, is ceo of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association