Friday, January 22, 2010

Action on alcohol

Lets face it – alcohol is extremely popular with the vast majority of people but it’s a drug, albeit legal and non-prescription, which affects every organ in the human body and changes behaviour to threaten life and health. Alcohol has all the risks of addiction and illness of illegal drugs and indeed some prescription drugs. The huge and growing alcohol problem has been well illustrated by recent widespread news reports eg ‘Bristol’s got a drink problem’ front page headline and ‘Alcohol’s cheap - and now we’re all paying the price’ (Post, 18 January).

It may not be popular with some, perhaps many, but its right that we take action on alcohol to prevent abuse and promote responsibility. I agree with calls to crackdown on the sale of cheap alcohol, with better controls and a minimum price per unit of alcohol, though our Government has been criticised for being too close to the drinks industry and not listening enough to advice from Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer. We should really bring in a complete ban on the promotion of alcohol products, including sponsorship, direct or indirect advertising and product placement on remuneration or reward.

The tax levied on alcohol products should be in proportion to the amount of alcohol in the finished product. The effect of alcohol tax levels on alcohol consumption should be reviewed continually and should inform decisions on increasing taxation.

The net profits of companies producing alcohol for consumption, and the dividends paid to shareholders of these companies should attract a significantly higher rate of taxation than now.

The additional money from higher alcohol taxation should be used to fund expanded health and education programs which should be targeted at those at highest risk of harming themselves and others and at changing drinking culture. Additional funds for policing in key problem areas could also be made available. Penalties for drunk and disorderly behaviour and driving whilst under the influence of alcohol should be increased and the permitted alcohol to blood ratio of drivers should be reduced.

Serving alcohol in smaller measures should be on offer. Suppliers should be required to provide clearer and accurate information about the unit alcohol content. Both these and other measures would help to facilitate more responsible drinking of alcohol.

Glenn Vowles, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol East


Further information on alcohol and health: