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An independent report issued by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) reveals the so-called ‘responsibility deal’ between the alcohol industry and Government has actually had a detrimental effect on public health.
Under the terms of the responsibility deal, the Government relies on the alcohol industry to combat the negative effects of alcohol consumption.
The report published in November highlights many of the terms of this agreement have been breached by the alcohol industry, particularly when it comes to the issue of ‘underage’ drinking.
The “Responsivity Deal” was ushered in by the Coalition Government in 2011. The deal’s aim is to promote self-governance in the way the alcohol industry tries to reduce alcohol harm.
Critics say the deal followed pressure by the powerful alcohol lobby who resisted more restrictive Government intervention in their affairs.
The deal overturned decades’ worth of regulation governing the alcohol industry.
The IAS’s report launches a stinging attack on the Deal. Specifically, the IAS claims the alcohol industry ignores policies that would reduce alcohol harm because many of these policies would hurt the industry’s sales.
The IAS also accuses the alcohol industry of massaging the figures relating to the effectiveness of current strategies they’ve implemented since 2011.
The alcohol industry is accused of postponing evidence-based actions and there exists no evidence that labelling alcohol containers with warnings makes any inroads when it comes to reducing alcohol-related harm.
In another report, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) claims the alcohol industry is not doing enough to draw attention to warnings placed on bottles and cans. Specifically, the LSHTM says these warnings are too small and omit vital pieces of information that would be more likely to reduce the amount of alcohol which people consume.
The LSHTM told Rehab 4 Alcoholism: “Labelling information frequently falls short of best practice, with fonts and logos smaller than would be accepted on other products with health effects.”
The IAS’s report said: “The RD has systematically focused on relatively ineffective interventions that are unlikely to reduce alcohol consumption. It has set up its pledges in ambiguous terms that resist assessment.
“The alcohol industry has obstructed rigorous evaluation of the RD, through the unreliability of its progress reports, and more damningly through its misconduct in the official evaluation process.”
The IAS points out that alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions have stubbornly continued to increase since 2011.
IAS’s director, Katherine Brown said: “Perhaps most worryingly, the report indicates that the deal may have delayed evidence-based actions that would save lives and cut crime, such as minimum pricing. To call this a ‘public health responsibility deal’ for alcohol is laughable, as almost every independent public health body has boycotted it.”
Brown says the Government has little choice but to overturn the Deal. She said: “It is absurd for this government to continue with such a farcical initiative. With alcohol costing our society £21bn each year, we can’t afford to keep prioritising the needs of big business over public health.”
The alcohol industry has responded to the report through The Portman Group (PG). The PG points to measures taken since 2011 that have reduced alcohol-harm, such as not advertising alcohol products within a 200-metre radius of schools, as well as the industry’s decision to include warnings on cans and bottles of the dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
The PG also slams the IAS’s report for not accounting for official Government data that illustrates the virtues of the Responsibility Deal.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “By working in partnership with government, drinks producers and retailers have taken 1.3 billion units of alcohol out of the market, limited the number of units of alcohol in single-serve cans, and voluntarily labelled 80% of products with important health information, and over 90% with a warning about drinking when pregnant.
“However, we also recognise that more needs to be done, and we will continue to challenge industry to go further.”
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