licensing

Licensing 'should not be used for alcohol health objectives'

By Helen Gilbert

- Last updated on GMT

Trade bodies: 'pubs shouldn't be used for public health objectives on alcohol'
Trade bodies: 'pubs shouldn't be used for public health objectives on alcohol'

Related tags: Licensing act, License

Alcohol licensing regulations should not be used to promote ‘overall health objectives’ around alcohol, industry bodies have warned.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) expressed the view after Alison Hernandez, Police & Crime Commissioner for Devon & Cornwall suggested there was a ‘responsibility on licensees’ to make people aware of the health dangers of booze or be denied a licence. 

Speaking before the House of Lords committee that is investigating the effectiveness of Licensing Act 2003, Hernandez insisted she would like to see greater effort from publicans to publish the health risks associated with alcohol.

“Just like we have on cigarette packets that show exactly what happens to you if you choose to smoke, it should say what happens to you if you choose to drink – and if you choose to drink a certain amount, what [impact] that might have,” she said. “It might be calories. It might be ‘this is the amount of calories you are taking in'.”

However, Lord Davies of Stamford questioned how licensees could make this work.

Unintended purpose

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “The licensing regime shouldn’t be used for a purpose for which it wasn’t intended. Licensing is about regulating how alcohol is sold on the premises - it isn’t common sense to suggest it could be used to promote overall health objectives.”

An ALMR spokesman warned that any such move would be a "hugely unwelcome additional burden for businesses" and added that licensed hospitality already "has and continues to play a valuable part in helping Government to address a range of health-related issues", through the Public Health Responsibility Deal, both collectively and individually.

“Calorie labelling can also be extremely difficult for businesses serving cocktails and mixed drinks where it may be unfeasible to accurately keep track of calories,” he said.

“Even for those selling a reasonably standard product, there may be variations and the cost of tracking, measuring and quantifying the calories per drink can be prohibitive and unworkable in practice."

'Fifth' objective

Menu labelling also adds complexity and costs for businesses are already face tightening margins, raising wage and property costs. No evidence suggests that such a move would bring meaningful change to drinking habits.”

Poppleston Allen legal specialist Andy Grimsey said: “It would only be relevant to the licensing objectives if public health was added as a fifth [licensing objective].”

The Lords committee has been investigating how effective the Licensing Act 2003 has been in England and Wales with the late-night levy, the growth of off-trade and its impact on public life, the issue of training for police, and the strengths and weaknesses of the night-time economy among the topics debated. 

Related topics: Licensing law

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