The Health Select Committee published its report on the Government’s Alcohol Strategy today, calling for a greater emphasis on the chronic health harms caused by alcohol. The report is the result of an inquiry launched directly after the publication of the Strategy by the Home Office in March this year.
Whilst the Committee welcomes the Government’s commitment to tackle the social problems caused by binge drinking, its report argues the focus on public disorder “overshadows health issues” resulting from chronic alcohol misuse, and calls for a greater role for Public Health England in implementing the Strategy.
The report supports the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol, however Chair of the Health Committee Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP urges the Government to “recognise that setting the price is not a one-off event. A transparent process must be put in place in order to ensure that the price level is evidence-based and is monitored over time to assess its effectiveness.”
The Committee recommends that a ‘sunset clause’ be put in place to ensure that minimum pricing only remains if it is shown to be effective in reducing harmful drinking.
The report recommends that Public Health England undertake an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Responsibility Deal for Alcohol and also commission a study into the principles and implications of introducing a version of the French Loi Evin marketing code in the UK, which prohibits alcohol advertisement on TV and through sports sponsorship.
The Committee warns that if the alcohol industry wishes to be seen as a serious committed partner in the Responsibility Deal, it must acknowledge that its advertising messages do have an effect on attitudes to alcohol and on consumption.
The Government will publish its response to the Select Committee’s report in due course.