The Mac Factor: the government's national alcohol strategy

Related tags National alcohol strategy Alcoholic beverage Drink

John McNamara, chief executive of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), discusses the government's definition of binge drinking.How many of you...

John McNamara, chief executive of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), discusses the government's definition of binge drinking.

How many of you can say that you have never consumed more than four pints of beer in a day?

My guess is few people in the UK can truly, hand on heart, swear to this - I certainly can't, and a quick straw poll of the staff at our head offices in Camberley backs this up.

And that, according to last month's government national alcohol harm reduction strategy, makes every single one of us "binge-drinkers".

Needless to say, the media went into overdrive when the report was released - and the positive aspects of the strategy were buried in the sensationalism that followed.

And once again the pub industry becomes the bad guy - the pusher of this "evil drink".

As most PR people know, statistics can say whatever you want them to say. If we choose to measure binge-drinking as drinking more than four pints in a day then the UK is certainly a country of binge-drinkers. Equally, if we choose to measure it as anyone drinking more than 10 pints in an hour we would find that the numbers drop dramatically.

The point is that the very essence of a national alcohol strategy should be to encourage a partnership between the pub trade, the health service, the education department and the government to help promote sensible drinking. It should be about a considered national programme to educate young people about alcohol and to encourage a healthy attitude to drinking.

Overall, consumers in the UK do not drink any more than those in other EU countries - something the media chose to ignore - and our licensees serve millions of people every year who enjoy a sensible drink in a safe and comfortable environment.

The BII and other trade bodies are more than willing to play our part and accept our responsibilities. We have always supported best practice when it comes to, for example, drinks promotions and discounting. Most professional licensees are against heavy discounting of any kind since it does encourage the small minority of irresponsible drinkers who give us and our other customers such a bad name.

Strict licensing and health and safety laws that govern pubs in the UK make them the safest environment to enjoy a drink in.

Perhaps we should be more concerned about drinking patterns among those who buy their alcohol elsewhere, in the off-trade or, more worryingly, from smugglers who flood our country with cheap bootlegged booze from mainland Europe.

Should the government not be focusing more clearly on these issues? A cut in beer duty is long overdue and could stop the illegal trade in its tracks.

This should be combined with a programme of alcohol education. The pub trade is fully supportive of government proposals to increase awareness of the issues in schools and colleges to ensure the next generation has a healthy attitude to alcohol and no longer views it as an enticing forbidden fruit.

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