Health warnings are a step too far

New report calls for a ban on alcohol advertising

PROPOSALS to put health warnings on alcohol labels and ban all alcohol advertising and sponsorship have been branded a step too far by trade groups.

The recommendations were outlined in ‘Health First: an evidence-based alcohol strategy for the UK’, which was developed by the Alcohol Health Alliance and published by the University of Stirling last week.
In the report, the health group, whose members include Alcohol Focus Scotland and the British Medical Association, calls for a ban on all alcohol advertising and sponsorship; it wants ads limited to factual information about the brand, its provenance and strength and restricted to newspapers and other ‘adult press’ in the short-term.
The AHA also wants at least one third of every alcohol product label given over to a health warning “specified by an independent regulatory body”.
But trade groups say the proposals are a step too far.
“We’ve got to watch the balance is not tipped,” said SLTA chief executive Paul Waterson.
“The [drinks] industry says the advertising of alcohol brands only makes people switch brands, not drink more. But there is certainly a case for looking at price-based advertising because it’s volume-based.
“Putting health warnings on labels is a step too far.
“And there are already guidelines on sponsorship in place which companies take very seriously.”
Patrick Browne, chief executive of the SBPA, agreed.
“I’m sure everyone in the industry supports the idea of giving consumers more information so they can make an informed decision about alcohol consumption and we would support that,” he said.
“But in pubs most people drink from unmarked containers, such as a pint or wine glass, so I don’t know how much impact that would have.
“And new figures out this week show alcohol consumption is down 16% since 2004 so these suggestions need to be considered in context.
“Regarding advertising and sponsorship, there is a voluntary regime in place which works so I would question what impact a statutory regime would have.”
Wine and Spirit Trade Association chief Miles Beale said the government should look at “locally targeted solutions, better education and enforcement of existing measures that have been shown to work”.
Other recommendations in the AHA’s report include taxing alcohol products based on their ABV and implementing a uniform 50p a unit minimum price across the UK. It also calls for the sale of alcohol in shops to be restricted to specific times of day and in designated areas and for an independent body to be set up to regulate alcohol promotion, including product and packaging design.
Professor Linda Bauld from the University of Stirling, who led the development of the strategy, said there is “strong support” for the measures.
“There is clearly an appetite for change, and our report sets out what needs to be done,” she said.