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“There is No Safe Drinking,” Expert Tells Euro-Conference; Price Policy is “Best Ammunition” (excerpt)

As the US government launches its next foray into Dietary Guidelines, the global debate over appropriate levels continues, especially in the UK and Europe.  ”There is no safe drinking,” veteran alcohol researcher/ advocate Jurgen Rehm told the European Alcohol Policy Conference in Edinburgh recently. In remarks widely covered in the UK press, Prof. Rehm focused on cancer risk: “If you have a substance which can cause cancer, then it’s basically roulette.  With every drink, you have a chance of cancer.” When thinking of limits, “one drink a day, that’s what the science says, I’m sorry,” Rehm said. And that’s a UK drink, 8 grams of alcohol, about a half-pint of regular lager. (In the US, a drink is 14 grams of alcohol.) Recall, the current UK guidance is 14 units/week; Rehm believes it should be 7 units/ week.  Among his policy recommendations, Rehm said “the big ammunition is using price policy, like taxation and things like that.” Minimum unit pricing in Scotland, he expects, “is going to have a significant impact,” though it’s too early to measure results. Alcohol consumption reportedly increased this past summer in Scotland after minimum prices were adopted, though most observers attributed that to especially hot weather and the World Cup.  Another potentially “helpful measure,” in Rehm’s view, reducing serving sizes and/or ABV. He pointed to tests suggesting that consumers could not tell the difference between 5% ABV drinks and 3.5% ABV drinks. While the alcohol beverage industry is not likely to support Rehm’s call for further reducing the guidelines there, lower-ABV and no-alcohol products are very much in their plans moving forward.

Scottish Public Health Minister Calls for Advertising Restrictions  While researchers and policymakers measure the impacts of minimum unit prices, the country’s Health Minister released a report recently calling for further action to “change our [country’s] relationship with alcohol,” to “reduce consumption” and “minimize harm.”  The report’s 20-point action summary includes monitoring minimum price and the licensing system. Also: “We will press the UK Government to protect children and young people from exposure to alcohol marketing on television before the 9 PM watershed and in cinemas, or else devolve the powers so the Scottish Parliament can act.”  The Health Minister will also consider further “mandatory restrictions on marketing.“ Not least, the public health ministry “will work with the alcohol industry on projects which can impact meaningfully on reducing alcohol harms; but not on health policy development, on health messaging campaigns or on provision of education in schools and beyond the school setting.”  ...

Publishing Info

  • Year: 2018
  • Volume: 35
  • Issue #: 11
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