Whisky group calls for greater health collaboration

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Responsible drinking, Alcohol

Though the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) claims to be winning the
fight to curb irresponsible consumption in its homeland, it has
called for more cooperation between industry and government to meet
responsible drinking aims.

The issue of responsibility is becoming increasingly important to players within the alcoholic beverage industry, as major players actively attempt to target concerns over the affects of consumption head on to avoid stricter regulation at a later date. SWA chief executive Gavin Hewitt made the latest claims at a forum held last week at the Scottish Parliament, to discuss growing concerns about responsible drinking at both national and EU level. He told delegates that recent figures from the UK's National Office of Statistics said that Scottish levels for irresponsible drinking were falling, but that both government and the entire industry must continue to look for solutions to the problem. "It is good news that our message is getting through but it is also clear more must be done to reach the minority who continue to drink irresponsibly,"​ he stated. Hewitt said though that recent collaborations between leading players involved in global alcohol production and the Scottish government was beginning to pay off. "[Our] members have also put in place a far-reaching code of practice on marketing and promotion, best practice recognized at EU level, and are rolling out new voluntary labelling to raise alcohol unit awareness,"​ he added. Other speakers at the forum included the European Commission's top health official, Robert Madelin, and the managing director of Diageo's British operations. The attempts by the industry to promote greater understanding of the need for responsible drinking come as the European Commission continues to apply pressure to reform the sale of alcohol. In June last year, the Commission formed the Alcohol and Health Forum, which currently consists of 40 businesses and non-governmental organisations, designed to reduce excessive alcohol consumption particularly amongst young people in the bloc. To do this, the group will offer greater education for young people on the dangers of drinking, while putting curbs on irresponsible alcohol advertising and sales practices. The forum, which will meet twice a year, will be open to any producers or groups that can detail an action plan on how they will contribute to reducing excessive consumption. These initiatives will also be made public, so that the members can be judged on how they are faring. It will also allow other producers and NGOs to adapt the more successful initiatives, to better curb excessive alcohol consumption. Along with self regulatory policies, the body will also establish a science group to advice on both scientific and policy issues. This work will also be backed by task forces, with two already established to cover marketing communication and youth-specific issues. Excessive consumption of alcohol is estimated to kill 200,000 Europeans a year, according to the bloc's figures. This pattern is attributed predominantly to men aged 15 - 29 with one in four of alcohol related deaths coming from this demographic. Though women were found to fair better in the study, estimates still claim that alcohol is responsible for the death of one in ten females belonging to the same age group.

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