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Higher alcohol taxes needed, says BMA

Published:  23 July, 2008

Alcoholic drinks should have higher taxes based on their strength, the British Medical Association (BMA) has claimed.

The association has also called for an end to "irresponsible" promotions such as two-for-one offers and clear alcohol labelling.

It wants labels to clearly state alcohol units, recommended guidelines for consumption and a warning message.

BMA head of science and ethics Dr Vivienne Nathanson said: "Recent governments have worked too closely with the alcohol industry and have pursued policies of deregulation and liberalisation regarding alcohol control."

She added: "The government approach has led to increased consumption levels and alcohol-related problems and demonstrates a failure in the political drive to improve public health and order."

BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said: "Since 1997, taxes on wine and beer in the UK have only increased in line with inflation while taxes on spirits have not increased at all. There is strong and consistent evidence that price increases result in reduced consumption."

He continued: "While most people in the UK drink sensibly and do not put their health at risk, there are significant numbers of men and women, across all ages, who are drinking significantly above the recommended guidelines."

But the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said increased taxes would not work.

Chief executive Jeremy Beadles said: "It does seem odd to acknowledge that the vast majority of us drink responsibly yet call for tax increases which would punish all of us for the sins of a few. It would be unfair and ineffective. What we need is a comprehensive approach that addresses the social factors that contribute to alcohol misuse."

The association said tax increases were unproven in reducing alcohol misuse.

Beadles added: "The alcohol drinks industry continues to work with Government to reduce underage sales, increase awareness of recommended daily guidelines and educate people about responsible drinking. What is clear is that more must be done to enforce the great breadth of laws already available to target alcohol misuse."