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Drinks industry challenges politicians on the facts about alcohol

Published:  10 October, 2008

Harpers is stepping up its campaign urging the drinks industry to lobby MPs over the Government's proposed new alcohol laws.

Harpers is stepping up its campaign urging the drinks industry to lobby MPs over the Government's proposed new alcohol laws.

Alongside the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) and Drinkers Alliance, Harpers is today issuing a press release in an effort to give the campaign maximum media exposure.

The initiative has been timed to coincide with the end of the Government's consultation on its national alcohol strategy on Tuesday and has been launched to ensure politicians make their decisions based on the real facts, not the scare stories pushed by anti-alcohol campaigners.

In an open letter to local MPs Harpers has also made clear the Government 's own statistics that show:

1. Average alcohol consumption in the UK is falling
* Per capita alcohol consumption has been falling since 2004
* The UK ranks 13th out of 27 in the EU league table of per capita alcohol consumption
* On average, Britons drink 17 % less than the French, and 19% less than the Germans.

2. The majority of people drink responsibly
* The numbers drinking over the recommended weekly guidelines fell between 2000 and 2006
* Men - down from 29% to 23%
* Women - down from 17% to 12%
* In the UK 7% of the population drink 33% of the alcohol

3. Underage drinking is declining but those who drink
consume more
* Underage drinking is down from 26% of 11-15 year olds in 2001 to 21% in 2006
* The numbers of 11-15 year olds who have never drunk alcohol are increasing: 2000 - 40% 2006 - 46%
* Weekly alcohol consumption among those 11-15 year olds who drink is up from an average of 10 units in the last decade to 11.4 units in 2006

4. Binge drinking is in decline but is more common among
16-24 year olds
* Number of people reporting binge drinking (over eight units) on at least one day in previous week is down:
* Men - 2003/4 - 23% 2006 - 18%
* Women - 2003/4 - 9% 2006 - 8%
* Among 16-24 year-olds, 27% of men and 21% of women reported binge
drinking in 2006, down from 36% and 26% in 2001

5. Laws to tackle alcohol misuse are not being enforced
* Just two people have been prosecuted and one found guilty of selling alcohol to a drunken person since the 2003 Licensing Act was introduced
* Only six people in England and Wales were found guilty of supplying alcohol to under-18s in 2006
* No-one since 2004 has been given the maximum fine for refusing to surrender alcohol in a public place or refusing a police officer's instruction to stop drinking

Richard Siddle, editor of Harpers, said: "The drinks industry takes its responsibility over the sale and use of alcohol in this country very seriously. But for too long the anti-alcohol lobby has persisted in chasing newspaper headlines that do not tell the true story about drinking levels in the UK - which in most instances are in decline.

"Today we are looking to set the record straight and make MPs aware of the real facts about the sale of alcohol. It is important we have a grown up debate on the culture of drinking in the UK. But we must do say based on fact not prejudice."

Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the WSTA, said: "The facts speak for themselves. It's a minority who are drinking irresponsibly, but that's no reason to punish the rest of us and our industry as a whole.

"It's time to send a strong message to politicians that policy on alcohol should be based on the real facts."

Harpers and the WSTA stress the industry is not hiding the fact the country faces some real issues when it comes to alcohol abuse and that it has a key role to play in managing it, but it is equally important the Alcohol Debate is played out on a level playing field and that everyone knows the real facts about drinking levels in the UK.