Health pros: Alcohol is EVIL – raise its price, ban its ads

Hooch 'brings forth a whole world of harm'

3 Big data security analytics techniques

A broad coalition of UK health organizations has released a report detailing the evils of demon rum (and whisky, vodka, brandy, gin, lager, ale, wine, et al.), and calling for a series of government actions to suppress its use, including sharply increased pricing and a ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorships.

"In developing this strategy, we considered the best available evidence about appropriate policies and interventions that are needed both to reduce drinking levels in individuals and reduce the damage to families and communities that alcohol can cause," said Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, when announcing the report, entitled "Health First: An evidence-based alcohol strategy for the UK".

"The pleasure of alcohol, for those who choose to drink, is clear," the report admits, but its very next sentence expresses the alarm that pervades the entire 55-page document: "Yet alcohol also brings forth a whole world of harm."

That world of harm is an expensive place, the report contends. "The personal, social and economic cost of alcohol has been estimated to be up to £55bn per year for England and £7.5bn for Scotland," it claims.

"Health First" goes on to itemize the harms to which it refers: premature death, cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, cancer ("of the head, mouth, neck, liver, breast and bowel"), falls, burns, drowning, poor mental health, depression, alcoholism, relationship breakdowns, domestic violence, car wrecks, impoverishment, harm to children, antisocial behavior, crime, disorder, the transformation of cities' downtowns into "no-go areas", costs to public services, "and the substantial impact of alcohol-related absenteeism on productivity and earnings."

The Reg is tempted to remark that such a litany of horrors is enough to drive a man to drink, but we have too much sophistication to stoop to such a glib cliché.

The report focuses its strategies for reducing alcohol consumption on what it calls the "four Ps" of marketing – price, product, promotion, and place. Of those, price is paramount. "The simplest way to reduce demand for alcohol," the report argues, "is to put the price up. Like most consumer products, demand for alcohol is inversely related to its price."

Cover image from 'Health First: An evidence-based alcohol strategy for the UK'

The report's cover wastes a perfectly good glass of wine

Advertising takes its lumps, as well. "The pervasive marketing of alcohol products in the UK is indefensible," the report asserts. "Only a complete ban on all alcohol advertising and sponsorship will make a lasting difference."

"Health First" makes 30 specific recommendations intended to curtail alcohol use, ranging from "forward planning" of the number, density, and opening hours of all licensed watering holes, to random breath-testing of drivers, to eliminating "happy hours". Of those 30, it elevates selected recommendations to its "Top Ten", as follows:

  1. A minimum price of at least 50p per unit of alcohol should be introduced for all alcohol sales, together with a mechanism to regularly review and revise this price.
  2. At least one third of every alcohol product label should be given over to an evidence-based health warning specified by an independent regulatory body.
  3. The sale of alcohol in shops should be restricted to specific times of the day and designated areas. No alcohol promotion should occur outside these areas.
  4. The tax on every alcohol product should be proportionate to the volume of alcohol it contains. To incentivise the development and sale of lower strength products, the rate of taxation should increase with product strength.
  5. Licensing legislation should be comprehensively reviewed. Licensing authorities must be empowered to tackle alcohol-related harm by controlling the total availability of alcohol in their jurisdiction.
  6. All alcohol advertising and sponsorship should be prohibited. In the short term, alcohol advertising should only be permitted in newspapers and other adult press. Its content should be limited to factual information about brand, provenance and product strength.
  7. An independent body should be established to regulate alcohol promotion, including product and packaging design, in the interests of public health and community safety.
  8. The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration for drivers should be reduced to 50mg/100ml.
  9. All health and social care professionals should be trained to routinely provide early identification and brief alcohol advice to their clients.
  10. People who need support for alcohol problems should be routinely referred to specialist alcohol services for comprehensive assessment and appropriate treatment.

The report's recommendations may sound draconian to some, but "Health First" argues that the majority of the public is on the authors' side, citing a 2012 survey conducted by the UK polling organization YouGov.

"The British people may have a long-standing relationship with alcohol," the report notes, "but this does not blind them to the harms that it causes: 61 per cent of respondents said that they thought this relationship is unhealthy." The highest percentage of "unhealthy" respondents, by the way, was in Northern Ireland and Scotland, where the report said "alcohol consumption per capita is relatively high."

In addition, 92 per cent thought that alcohol had "a great deal" or "a fair amount" of impact on disorderly and anti-social behavior, 67 per cent agreed that is was important to conduct promotional campaigns to raise awareness of the harms of alcohol, and 57 per cent said that alcohol products should be required to include warning labels.

When it came to increasing the price of alcohol, however, the public balked. Only 35 per cent said that drinks should be more expensive, and 22 per cent thought they should instead be cheaper.

The authors of "Health First" are undaunted by this public reluctance. "We need to be ambitious not only in tackling the price of alcohol," they write in their summary, "but also in regulating alcohol products, eliminating alcohol promotion and controlling the overall availability of alcohol in our communities." ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
prev story


Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.