UK government launches responsible drinking push

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Alcoholic beverage

Alcohol consumption across the UK has gone down for the first time
in six years, industry figures show, as the government launches a
new campaign to make young people drink responsibly.

Britons guzzled 1.6 per cent fewer alcoholic drinks each last year, according to the latest British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) Statistical Handbook.

The new figures come days after the UK government launched a £4m alcohol awareness campaign, 'Know Your Limits', intended to encourage 16-24-year-olds to drink responsibly.

Brits may be drinking less on average, but market reports and government research shows this age group has done its best to make up for others' more abstemious nature.

Government figures show that almost half of men and more than a third of women aged 16-24 drink more than their daily allowance, increasing their risk of health problems such as cirrhosis later in life.

Caroline Flint, public health minister, said: "In England it is estimated that 5.9m people drink to get drunk. This [campaign] is about encouraging young people to still have a good time but to know their limits, and to take responsibility for how much they drink."

World Health Organisation figures estimate that 600,000 Europeans die every year from alcohol-related problems and that this costs European Union members €200bn annually.

Officials at the European Commission are already considering using warning labels on alcoholic drinks to make consumers think twice.

Many pubs and drinks firms in the UK, while rejecting warning labels, have signed up to promote more responsible drinking. But, industry debate has shifted recently to supermarket pricing policy, which is now seen as a central issue in light of the consumer switch to the off-trade.

Around 41 per cent of Britain's beer is now bought in shops, compared to 33 per cent in 2000, the BBPA said. Supermarkets have a bigger hold on wine, with the top three accounting for more than half of UK wine sales.

Both the UK government and the Scottish Executive are understood to be considering action to limit price promotions on alcohol in shops.

The market should regulate itself, according to a wine buyer from the Waitrose retailer, speaking during a discussion at the recent International Wine Conference in London.

He admitted tough competition made pricing difficult in the wine sector, however. "We work very hard to try and promote appropriately, but we are vulnerable to other retailers trying to promote more than we do."

An awards ceremony for those retailers who have worked to promote responsible drinking will be held in London on 21 November.

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