How responsible is the responsibility deal?
You may have seen in the news earlier this week that the alcohol industry has made some ‘new’ pledges as part of the Government’s Responsibility Deal - which they claim will help deal with some of the problems we see being caused by the wide availability of cheap alcohol.
These pledges include:
- A commitment to get rid of high strength beer and cider in 500ml cans.
- A commitment to responsible retailing
- Measures to deal with street drinking
- A renewed commitment to Drinkaware
- The provision of lower strength wines below 12.5%.
- Supporting local areas through targeted partnership schemes for areas with high alcohol related harm.
- Providing training for 10,000 bar staff in the responsible retailing of alcohol.
- Providing £250,000 to an independent blind trust – The Life Skills Education and Alcohol Foundation – for schools education
Our view is that these measures will have at best a minimal impact and will in no way replace evidence-based interventions.
One or two limitations are immediately apparent:
- Only those companies signed up to the Responsibility Deal are covered by these pledges
- It’s not clear if they will be independently evaluated and the claims being made for progress against the 1 billion unit cut pledge suggest any evaluation is unlikely to be robust
- The high strength commitment does not include large bottles of white cider and it will still be possible to purchase a 440ml can of Special Brew at 9% which contains 3.96 units
- The commitment to responsible retailing is at this stage a commitment to produce some guidelines. When that appears and what they might be able to agree on is not known
- We can’t find any more detail on the street drinking initiative and what the commitment to Drinkaware actually means
- None of these measures will make up for the fact that the tax and duty changes made during the budget will increase consumption according to Treasury figures
It is the view of the WHO and other leading independent authorities that the alcohol industry should not be helping to shape alcohol policy. In the absence of a credible national alcohol strategy these pledges are the only direction being given at a national level.
What we need Government to do is adopt policies which are based on independent evidence to reduce the price, promotion and availabilty of alcohol. Only then can we truly tackle alcohol harms.