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Industry challenged by Government alcohol policy

Published:  18 January, 2007

Alcohol policy is at the top of the Government agenda, and our industry is facing a serious challenge, not least because of an unprecedented campaign from the anti-alcohol lobby.

This is despite the fact that overall alcohol consumption has fallen for the past two years, and the numbers of people binge drinking is also

falling. As far as beer is concerned, trading conditions are more difficult than they have been for decades, with consumption down dramatically. Beer sales in pubs are now at their lowest since the Great Depression.

We are challenging the anti- industry lobby over the flaws in their case. If high taxes reduce harm, for example, why does the UK, which has the second highest alcohol tax rates in Europe, have worse drinking behaviours and higher levels of binge drinking that low-tax countries?

But we also need to be up front in saying that alcohol misuse is a problem in our society, and we must continue to make a positive

contribution to tackling the problem. We are doing this

through support for the Drinkaware Trust, and engaging with the Government in every aspect of its alcohol strategy.

But equally, we must not hesitate to tell the government and the anti-alcohol lobby when we think they are wrong.

Mark Hastings is the director of communications at the British Beer and

Pub Association.