Just-drinks has today (2 July) been in attendance at the Westminster Food & Nutrition Keynote Seminar on alcohol, held in London. The morning-long event has been looking at the issue of alcohol consumption and abuse in the UK, and considered the situation as it is, as it could be and as it should be. Among the more pertinent comments from speakers are the ones below.

"Alcohol in the UK has slipped into a form of self-medication, for example, for stress."

"When one visits the 'Know Your Limits' website, there are lots of pictures of delicious alcoholic drinks. If one visited a weight-watchers site, would one see pictures of currant buns?"

"What we have done here in the UK is become a world expert in the creation of safer places in which to binge drink."

- Professor Mark Bellis, director of the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University.

"When we (the police) consider the introduction of 24-hour drinking in the UK, we can see that it hasn't created a 'wine-drinking' society, nor has it created a doom and gloom scenario, as many had predicted. It's been neutral."

"My opinion is that there should be a ban on the advertising of drinks, and increased investment in the advertising of drinking responsibly - it needs that strong a statement."

- Mike Craik, Chief Constable Northumbria, ACPO national spokesperson on alcohol and licensing.

"If you're not going to ban alcohol altogether, than the only alternative policy is to promote the consumption of alcohol responsibly and in a safe environment."

"The current policy framework is failing, and it's failing because it's indiscriminate. It is also counter-productive. Beer is cheaper in the off-trade than in the controlled environment of the on-trade, by about five to one."

- Mike Benner, chief executive, CAMRA, The Campaign for Real Ale.

"First, we need to make sure that the old approaches to tackling alcohol misuse are working properly before we consider a new strategy altogether."

"It's difficult to accept the opinion that consumers should take personal responsibility (for their alcohol consumption) when we are talking about a product upon which some people become dependent."

- Professor Ian Gilmore, president, Royal College of Physicians.

"If there is to be a push towards introducing minimum pricing for alcohol, then why not consider a maximum pricing limit for soft drinks, particularly in the on-trade? Drinkers are less inclined to move to soft drinks, for fear of being ripped off."

- Simon Melville, BMT Social Marketing.

"49% of prisoners in Scotland's jails say that they were drunk at the time that they commited their offence. One other shocking statistic is that one in every 20 deaths in Scotland are attributable to alcohol."

"Consumption (of alcohol) has risen in Scotland as the affordability of alcohol has decreased. This does suggest a causal relationship. An intervention in price is essential, therefore, if we are going to have an impact on this issue."

- Alison Douglas, head of alcohol policy team, Scottish government.

"Some of the suggestions around minimum pricing are clearly not popular, but the unpopularity of London's congestion charge does not mean that it has not been effective in reducing the number of cars on the road in central London."

"There is a lot of debate, there's a lot of talking, but there's very little action or clarity between all sides of this situation about what we do next - it's a bit of a mess."

- Nicolay Sorensen, director of policy and communications, Alcohol Concern.

"This is not a 21st century problem. It's not even a very modern problem. Alcohol misuse goes back many centuries in the UK, and many of the patterns of behaviour that we are seeking to tackle have been deeply embedded over a long period of time. What we're engaged in here is cultural change, which takes both commitment and time."

"Alcohol consumption has been falling in this country since 2004. If you apply the Sheffield University formula to these figures, what that means is that we should by now have seen many thousands fewer admitted to hospital for alcohol-related problems, and there should have been a reduction of GBP2.3bn (US$3.77bn) in the costs throughout the related harm. But what we're hearing consistently is that the problem is getting worse."

- Mark Hastings, director of communications, British Beer & Pub Association.

"The licensed sector has become a scapegoat for the ills of society in relation to alcohol-related harms. Personal responsibility cannot be ignored. Who is telling children what the facts and choices are in termds of their relationship with alcohol?"

"We need more understanding of the regulations we've got, not more confusion. The powers in the Licencing Act are enough to put paid to irresponsible operators, we don't need more. What we do need is a holistic approach to the problems we've got, and we need more targeted enforcement."

- Cathie Smith, director of BIIAB, BII - the professional body for licensed retail.

"Alcohol-specific mortality is related more closely to poverty than it is to the excessive-drinking middle classes that we have heard about of late in the media."

"There are around 10m people in the UK drinking at levels which are, or could be, causing them serious harm. International evidence suggests that, following a brief discussion with their GP [general practitioner] or nurse, one in eight higher-risk drinkers will reduce their consumption to lower-risk levels."

- Dr Will Cavendish, director of health and wellbeing, Department of Health.