September 8, 2009

British Doctors Seek Ban On Alcohol Advertisements

British doctors said on Tuesday that a complete ban on alcohol advertising should be imposed and a minimum drink price set to help deter excessive drinking in Britain, Reuters reported.

Curtailment of the industry's $1.3 billion annual promotional budget should also cover sponsorship of sports and arts events, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).

The BMA called for alcoholic drinks to be taxed higher than the rate of inflation, and for licensing hours to be scaled back.

The association's report "Under the Influence" said alcohol consumption had increased rapidly during the past 20 years, causing social problems and increased health care costs, which showed that self-regulation had failed.

It urged the government to impose measures to deter heavy drinking, similar to those introduced against smoking in enclosed public places.

Dr. Vivienne Nathanson, head of BMA science and ethics, said the country is in a perverse situation where the alcohol industry is advising the governments about alcohol reduction policies.

"As with tobacco, putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop -- or at least putting him on a par with the farmer -- is a dangerous idea," she said.

While it supported the principle of a minimum price for alcohol, the BMA said it did not want to put forward a suggested figure.

Countries like Scotland are contemplating a minimum price of 40 pence per unit of alcohol.

Chief medical officer Liam Donaldson recommended a price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol, but Prime Minister Gordon Brown rejected the idea in March, saying he did not want to punish the majority for the actions of the few.

According to BMA, Britain had developed an "excessively pro-alcohol social norm," of which young people's binge drinking was a predictable manifestation due to cheap prices and targeted sweetened drinks.

Household expenditure on alcoholic drinks increased by 81 percent between 1992 and 2006, and the BMA said there was a clear relationship between the price and consumption of alcohol.

However, doctors rejected selective targeting of young people because it was likely to make alcohol more appealing to those groups.

"The BMA is ignoring all the evidence that advertising causes brand switching, not harmful drinking," said David Poley, chief executive of the Portman Group, which represents drinks manufacturers.

Meanwhile, alcohol consumption had fallen 6 percent in 2004, according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).


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