The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has challenged a new health body set up to lobby for a hike in alcohol tax to answer five key questions, in a letter sent today.
Mark Hastings, the BBPA's director of communications, said the industry wanted to open up a dialogue with the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), which is being led by Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians.
The alliance, which is due to formally launch next week, is made up of 21 health and temperance groups. It wants alcohol taxation increased as well as more government regulation of the drinks industry.
Among the questions being posed by the BBPA are::
* If current taxes are insufficient, why are the numbers of people drinking in excess of daily guidelines falling?
* If high taxes cut alcohol misuse, why does the UK have more problems with alcohol-related behaviour than low tax countries?
* If advertising encourages people to drink more why has consumption fallen in the past two years?
* Rather than calling for health warning labels, what are doctors doing to encourage and promote moderate consumption - given that those who drink moderately live longer than those who drink excessively or those who don't drink at all?
"We are challenging some of the basic assumptions of this new group as we don't believe the evidence supports the idea that higher taxes would mean less alcohol misuse," said Hastings.