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Chief Medical Officer “deplores” irresponsible alcohol retailing methods

England’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has delivered a stinging criticism of the practices of alcohol retailers, describing the selling methods used to attract consumers to purchase alcohol as “irresponsible”.

In her Annual Report On the State of the Public’s Health published today, Dame Sally Davies highlights the prevalence of excess alcohol consumption as a risk factor for several conditions, including liver and cardiovascular disease and breast cancer.

Her report also notes that the long-term trend in consumption is “one of substantial increase” – in 2012 the UK population consumed about twice as many units of alcohol per person as the population fifty years ago – and remarks upon alcohol’s links with crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour, before going on to “deplore the methods which retailers use to entice consumers to purchase ever-greater quantities of alcohol”, such as supermarkets promoting multi-buy offers, and licensed premises failing to carry out their legal obligation to serve wine in small (125ml) wine glasses.

The report also expresses concern for the exposure of alcohol advertising to children, as evidence shows that children exposed to alcohol marketing tend to drink alcohol at an earlier age and in greater quantities than those who are not.

Although the report welcomes Government legislation soon to come into force banning the sale of alcohol below the cost of duty plus VAT, Dame Sally Davies notes the modelled data indicating that a minimum price of 45p per unit of alcohol would be “more effective” in reducing premature deaths, and suggests an exploration of the impact of the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 to “add valuable real-world data” to the challenge of dealing with alcohol misuse.

She also confirms that an expert group is currently reviewing evidence to inform new guidelines on the maximum quantity of alcohol which it is safe to consume, and that she intends to “publish these guidelines within the coming year”.

Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer: Surveillance Volume, 2012: On the State of the Public’s Health is available to download from the Gov.uk website.