Baby thrown out with bathwater shock

A passing comment in this month’s 1&1 interview with Diageo’s Country Director here Oliver Loomes struck me as a fairly level-headed response to mounting hysteria on alcohol consumption.

Perhaps contemplating the prospect of further advertising and promotional restrictions on alcohol in the almost-forthcoming Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, he stated, “We want to tackle alcohol misuse but not interefere with having a drink as part of a healthy social life”.

This strikes as a balanced and proportionate view of alcohol abuse from the industry as a whole, especially when, later on in the interview, Oliver used other equally measured words: “You don’t want to target the minority in a way that impacts negatively on the majority.”

It’s precisely this concept that successive governments have failed to grasp, because targeting the minority in a way that impacts negatively on the majority is an easy and lazy response. It’s exactly what the Scottish government is considering at present, for example, with its ludicrous proposal for a national annual alcohol consumption limit for the hospitality industry.

This “clumsy tool providing meaningless data and giving absolutely no indication as to the manner of consumption and giving no indication of harm” as Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of the Association of Multiple Licensed Retailers in the UK put it, would then go on to influence opening hours, new licences and licensing conditions, where the real problems lie – as they do here – in the unfettered sale of alcohol in the multiples and discounters.

Thus, we can only agree with Oliver when he explains that the industry would obviously like to work with government in partnership to address alcohol misuse in this country, “… but a holistic approach to our relationship with alcohol amongst all stakeholders and all parties is the way to do that.”

Any fragmented, unproven and cack-handed approach to alcohol abuse is exactly what all stakeholders in the alcohol question should be working to avoid.

If we really want to make progress in reducing alcohol abuse – and everyone in the industry agrees that alcohol misuse is in nobody’s interest – then everyone must tone down the rootin’ tootin’ rhetoric against this industry, that passes for concern over alcohol (but also sells papers), while the government and other stakeholders must see the bigger picture and not be so swayed by carpe diem media loudmouths.

Sign Up for Drinks Industry Ireland

Get a free weekly update on Drinks Industry trade news, direct to your inbox. Sign up now, it's free