A minimum price on alcohol would be "ineffective" and policies to deal with alcohol abuse must be "smarter" than targeting everyone — that's the warning from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).
Responding to the Health Select Committee's report recommending a minimum price on alcohol (MPs: it's war on cheap supermarket alcohol), the BBPA took issue with the assumption that a reduction in consumption would lead to improvements in public health.
It points to the fact that alcohol consumption is down 12% since 2004 — 6.7% in the last year — and yet the health benefits have proved "elusive". The BBPA also takes issue with the unrealistic deifinition of a moderate drinker — one who has 6 units a week ( a couple of glasses of wine).
The committee believes that 10% of the population consumes 44% of all alcohol — the BBPA that 7% consumer about a third of alcohol and it would seem more sensible to target that particular group.
"Many of these policy proposals are based on the premise that the Holy Grail in tackling alcohol harm is to pursue policies designed to reduce the amount everyone drinks, which leads to direct and quantifiable health dividendsm," said BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds.
"Were that true, we would already be seeing significant falls in alcohol related harms in the UK. The nation's alcohol consumption has been falling significantly and consistently for the last five years.
"However, the health dividends that are predicted should follow have proved elusive.
She added: "This experience strongly suggests a significant flaw in such a policy objective. While undoubtedly well intentioned, it would be ineffective in practice.
"In addition, such policies carry with them unintended consequences which would put at risk many established features of individual and community social life as well as threaten jobs and business.
"As successfully demonstrated in other areas, we need smarter policies that are more accurately targeted at specific problem areas rather than blanket policies that restrict the freedoms and choices of everyone. We would very much welcome an open dialogue with health professionals about how to identify and pursue such policies."
Curious social justice
The Wine and Spirits Trade Association agreed with the sentiments of the BBPA. "There are no surprises here. This Select Committee report is just part of the concerted campaign by elements of the health lobby for a range of policies which will punish millions of hard-working people while doing nothing to tackle the problem few," said chief executive Jeremy Beadles.
"What's needed is tough action against those who misuse alcohol with help for those who have a genuine health problem and mandatory school education about alcohol so that people understand the risks."
Meanwhile, drinks industry watchdog Portman Group said a minimum price would be "a curious piece of social justice". Chief executive David Poley said: "It would take money from poorer people and transfer it to the supermarkets."