Mature and honest discussion, anyone?

Many of the proposals put forward in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill are either confusing or insulting – or both.

Take confusing: if, as the most expensive country in Europe for alcohol, raising the price still further will reduce alcohol abuse, then why are native consumers not falling around the streets of Barcelona, Madrid and Seville?

Take insulting: 22% of consumers purchase 66% of the country’s alcohol. We, as the other 78% – adult citizens – find ourselves being treated like children by a Nanny State that would decide that we shouldn’t see alcohol on TVs and billboards. Once again the majority must contribute to protecting a minority of abusers. If the government wishes to target this minority let them do so, but don’t proscribe advertising or draw a veil over what’s a perfectly respectable purchase in any other civilised country for the rest of us.

Take confusing: we appear to have adopted the Weekly Recommended Units of Consumption guide from the UK which has already admitted that the guidelines have no scientific basis. So why are we referencing it at all?

Take insulting: the labelling proposals suggest putting all sorts of information into the label, information that, again, no one asked for nor is it in any way helpful in cutting down consumption. Subjecting four-fifths of the adult population to a lengthy list of ingredients, calories and warnings with websites that few will ever reference again insults our intelligence and – again – will do nothing for those in need of help.

But it will be extremely damaging. For we’ve a growing alcohol export industry, punching well above our weight in terms of exports and reputation. Should the labelling proposals in the Alcohol Bill go through, it’ll blight every beer and every spirits producer in the land at a time when fledgling companies struggle to get off the exports launching pad.

Alexandar Smith, Editor-In-Chief of the IWSR magazine: “The high excise duties levied against spirits in many European countries, coupled with a burdensome regulatory climate, only serves to reduce the competitiveness of its leading exporting companies” .

The reasoning behind restricting labelling, retail display and advertising channels remains less than factually-based. So is the alcohol industry wrong when it suggests that we have a mature and honest discussion on alcohol consumption?


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