Government Colluding With Alcohol Industry, Welsh Doctors Charge

by Gopalan on  February 23, 2008 at 4:22 PM Alcohol & Drug Abuse News   - G J E 4
Government Colluding With Alcohol Industry, Welsh Doctors Charge
Little is being done to tackle the problem of alcoholism because ministers are in cahoots with the alcohol industry, Welsh doctors charge.

Saying alcoholism is assuming more and more serious proportion every day, the Welsh chapter of the British Medical Association has suggested a series of measures to tackle it.

A key one is for higher taxes, the stronger the drink the higher the tax.

The doctors also want a ban on the so-called "happy hours" and cut-price drinks promotions in a bid to tackle the growing alcohol problem.

But nothing is being done because ministers are working too closely with the alcohol industry, the association has said.

The BMA's reaction comes in the wake of a statement from supermarket giant Tesco that it wants to work with the government to introduce "responsible pricing" for alcohol.

It is thought that up to 40% of adults in the Wales region are drinking more than the recommended levels and 20% admit to binge drinking at weekends, reports the Western Mail.

Happy hours - short-term price cuts - and other cut-price drinks promotions have traditionally been used by pubs and clubs to entice people into a venue, especially on quieter week nights and during the day.

But they have also been blamed for encouraging binge drinking.

The BMA, in its report Alcohol Misuse: Tackling the UK Epidemic, said such "irresponsible promotional activities" must end.

Rhoda Emlyn-Jones, Welsh Woman of the Year and the service manager of Cardiff and the Vale Alcohol and Drug teams, said, "Gradually, over time, we have seen a reduction in the cost of alcohol, increasing availability and heavier marketing towards young people around the whole growth in leisure.

"This is clearly putting more people at risk and helps create a culture of heavy drinking.

"Availability and cost need to be a piece of the picture for reducing harm in the future."

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians and chair of the UK Alcohol Health Alliance, said, "Alcohol is not an ordinary commodity. It is legal and it is part of our society but it is a drug and a drug of dependence in some people.

"It should not be subject to promotions and use as a loss leader."

Social Justice Minister Dr Brian Gibbons, who announced a 10-year strategy to tackle drug and alcohol abuse earlier this month, said at the time, "Even though the price of alcohol is going up, it's not going up anything like as fast as people's incomes, so it is cheap. The number of outlets is making it easier for people to drink in their own home."

Dr Richard Lewis, Welsh secretary of the BMA, said, "Our report makes some tough recommendations, but if the government is serious about tackling this issue this is what is needed.

"Since 1997, taxes on wine and beer in the UK have only increased in line with inflation while taxes on spirits have not increased at all.

"There is strong and consistent evidence that price increases result in reduced consumption and that increased opening hours are associated with increased alcohol consumption."

More must also be done to help people with alcohol problems, he said. "We need to identify patients who are misusing alcohol much earlier, but it doesn't end there.

"There must be enough funding in place to refer patients who are at risk to specialist centres.

"As a GP it is disheartening to refer someone who has an alcohol problem for help but know that they'll be waiting months to be seen by the appropriate specialised agency.

"In that time not only does their health worsen but the effects on their family and work life can be catastrophic."

Source: Medindia

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