NICE calls for tough action on alcohol sales and marketing

NICE calls for tough action on alcohol sales and marketing

Drinks industry bodies have criticised the Government's main health advisory body after it recommended a minimum price and tougher advertising rules for alcoholic drinks.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) today (2 June) put its weight behind calls for a base price on alcohol, in order to tackle the health and social problems related to excess drinking.

"Making alcohol less affordable is the most effective way of reducing alcohol-related harm," said NICE in a report following two years of research on alcohol harm.

"Consider introducing a minimum price per unit," it said, adding that authorities should "set the level by taking into account the health and social costs of alcohol-related harm and its impact on alcohol consumption".

The report puts more pressure on the new Coalition Government to consider minimum pricing and to take tough, swift action against alcoholic drinks.

On advertising, the body called for a "strengthening" of current regulations to prevent young people's exposure to alcohol. It recommended that the Government consider the costs and benefits of a complete alcohol advertising ban.

Drinks industry bodies today strongly criticised the NICE report.

"Minimum pricing is probably illegal and won't stop problem drinkers," said Gavin Partington, of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association. "Advertising is already tightly regulated and banning it would hit the pockets of millions of consumers and threaten the loss of thousands of jobs."

He added: "We need to educate people better and earlier about the risks associated with excessive drinking and we need proper enforcement of laws to address misuse and related anti-social behaviour."

SABMiller, which sells Peroni Nastro Azzurro in the UK, said: "We welcome the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence's focus on alcohol misuse but we are concerned at the focus on price and advertising.

"There is no conclusive evidence that advertising causes underage drinking or alcohol misuse; parents have repeatedly been identified as having a far greater influence on whether their child drinks than advertising does. Marketing is essential to free and fair trade."

The UK Conservative Party, which dominates the Coalition Government, rejected minimum pricing for England and Wales while in opposition. Scotland has the power to set its own policy and, while the ruling Scottish National Party has proposed minimum pricing, the has been little political support for the move so far.

The UK's competition regulator, the Office of Fair Trading, has also opposed a base price for alcohol.

A policy roadmap released by the UK Coalition Government last month detailed several initiatives to deal with alcohol-related harm, including a ban on "below cost" selling by retailers and an "overhaul" of the current licensing rules. It has committed itself to a review on pricing.

For the full NICE report, click here.