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Health groups outline independent alcohol strategy

A pressure group comprising more than 70 healthcare organisations, including the BMA, is supporting an independent alcohol strategy to curb excess drinking across the UK.

Alcohol Health Alliance UK is backing thirty recommendations set out in the University of Stirling report Health First: An Evidence-based Alcohol Strategy for the UK.

Foremost among these is the introduction in England and Wales of a minimum price for alcohol of 50 pence per unit, to bring the two countries in line with legislation passed in Scotland.

The BMA has previously argued against the lower price of 45 pence per unit proposed in a Home Office alcohol strategy consultation, which closed in January.

It also wants to see an increase in excise duty, alcoholic drinks to be taxed on strength, and any future ban on multi-buy promotions extended from shops to pubs and bars.

More action needed

BMA director of professional activities Vivienne Nathanson said the association was pleased with the way UK governments had started to tackle alcohol misuse, but argued that more action was needed.

She said: ‘The strategy outlined in the Stirling University report paves the way for real harm reduction. We agree that a minimum price per unit of alcohol should be set at 50 pence, and that improved labelling about the risks linked to drinking too much alcohol is urgently required.

‘The BMA also has longstanding policy calling for an end to alcohol advertising. Alcohol misuse leads to serious ill health and premature death, and is linked to violence and antisocial behaviour.

‘It also costs society many billions of pounds every year.’

The Health First strategy was developed by a group of experts outside the government and alcohol industry chaired by Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, under the auspices of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK.

Key recommendations

It makes 30 key recommendations, and provides evidence to underpin them. They include:

  • A health warning should take up at least a third of every alcohol product label
  • Shop sales of alcohol should be restricted to specific times and areas
  • Taxation according to alcoholic strength
  • A review of licensing legislation
  • Banning alcohol advertising and sponsorship
  • An independent body to regulate alcohol promotion
  • Reducing the legal driving limit for blood alcohol to 50 mg/100ml
  • Routine training for health professionals in early identification of alcohol misuse
  • Routine referral of people with alcohol problems to specialist services.

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