Comment - UK alcohol consumption is falling, did anyone tell the health lobby?
MPs are recommending further laws to tackle the UK's alcohol-related issues
Every six months or so, a report or a piece of research is released about the UK's so-called alcohol “epidemic”. The national media jump on it, which sets in train much teeth-gnashing over what should be done.
Yesterday was a case in point. A 'manifesto' by MPs, backed by the charity Alcohol Concern, set out ten ways to help curtail the UK's drink-related issues. The solutions weren't particularly new: Minimum unit pricing, tighter regulation of alcohol advertising and a lowering of the drink-drive limit. What attracted most headlines was the idea that producers be forced to include further health warnings on product labels. Although, beyond adding calorie information, the report was fairly vague on this point.
Should the industry be worried about more legislation? At this stage, I'd say, no.
For a start, with a General Election just around the corner (in May), the current Government has exhausted its legislative programme. It is also very keen on its Responsibility Deal pledge with the industry.
The main opposition party, Labour, appears to be taking a tougher stance on alcohol, floating the idea of a minimum price. However, the last time the party was in power, the threat of legislation on alcohol was raised, but very little was ever done. The realities of government soon kick in and many manifesto pledges fall by the wayside.
That's not to say that yesterday's media brouhaha will have no effect. The concept of nudge theory – influencing the population through suggestions rather than legislation - has been live in public health circles for some time now. There will be people who consumed yesterday's media reports that may now think twice about that extra glass of wine in the evening.
Ultimately, however, UK alcohol consumption levels have been falling since 2004. As long as the industry keeps hammering home this message, the threat of further, significant, laws should be small.
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