Education, education, education

27 August, 2008
Page 22 
Puritanical anti-alcohol lobbying is gathering momentum with increasing demand for more taxation and regulation of the drinks industry. But will more restrictions really make a difference? I think not.

We asked four industry experts this question (see page 27), and their general consensus was that a change in social attitudes through communication

and education was the more likely solution.

The threat of more restrictive trading, however, has at least made our industry sit up and take action and the results so far have been positive. According to a report by Britain's Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Agency (, fewer young people are indulging in under-age or irresponsible drinking.

The report is testimony to the positive contribution of the drinks industry in ensuring its products are promoted sensibly. It is also evidence that through carefully channelled communication with target groups, social attitudes to alcohol can be changed for the better.

Despite this, the newly formed Alcohol Health Alliance, a coalition of 24 health groups led by professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, has called for higher taxes plus fiercer warnings on labels.

And last month, the UK prime minister Gordon Brown called a meeting with alcohol producers, as well as retailers, doctors and academics. Brown challenged drinks manufacturers to do more to tackle alcohol abuse or "face the penalties".

High taxes may benefit governments' pockets, but there's plenty of evidence around the world to prove it does little to curb problem drinking. And rather than calling for health warnings, which would be water off a duck's back to heavy drinkers, could not the health authorities do more to advise people? After all, don't those who enjoy drinking in moderation lead healthier lives than those who drink excessively or not at all? Cheers!

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