The alcohol industry may be about to face tougher laws on marketing after MPs sitting in the House of Commons health committee concluded that not enough was being done to tackle problem drinking.
Unlike cigarette companies, the drinks industry is largely self-regulated, with firms adopting the ‘drink aware’ logo and placing small notices on packaging and advertising advising drinkers to be sensible and to drink in moderation.
However, after reviewing the current government strategy on alcohol, the cross-party health committee has concluded that not enough was being done to tackle long-term, chronic alcohol abuse.
The committee also attacked the Government’s relationship with the drinks industry.
Despite moves to tackle binge drinking, there are still nearly 7,000 alcohol-related deaths in England every year.
The health committee chairman, Stephen Dorrell, believes that the industry must do more to trade responsibly.
“We don’t think the industry has a sufficiently well-developed sense of what it takes to trade responsibly,” he said, pointing out that many firms still believe that advertising does not recruit new drinkers and merely serves to develop brand loyalty.
The health committee report calls on Public Health England to look at the model adopted by the French in 1991. The ‘Loi Evin’ was introduced by French Minister of Health Claude Evin to tackle both cigarette and alcohol marketing. The French law prevents these products being targeted at youngsters and bans advertising in cinemas and at cultural and sporting events.
The committee approves of the Government’s plan to impose a minimum price on alcohol, a policy which is currently being finalised north of the border in Scotland.
The drinks industry, represented by the Portman Group, expressed disappointment at what they believe is a failure to appreciate the steps they have taken to demonstrate responsibility. Measures which are currently on the table include reducing the alcohol content of leading brands, and introducing new low-alcohol-content products.
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