Andrew Lansley rejects minimum unit pricing of alcohol
The Telegraph splash this morning covers the latest advice from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) about how to tackle problem drinking.
Among its suggestions are:
- A possible ban on all alcohol advertising to protect children
- A reduction in how much alcohol travellers are allowed to bring into the country from abroad
- A reduction in alcohol licensing hours at pubs, clubs and off-licences
- A minimum national price per unit of alcohol
The Government has already indicated its desire to prevent outlets selling alcohol at below cost price, but NICE has rejected that idea in favour of that recommendation of minimum pricing per unit.
However, the Telegraph reports Health Secretary Andrew Lansley as rejecting this proposal:
"Regarding NICE's recommendations on minimum pricing for units of alcohol, it is not clear that the research examines specifically the regressive effect on low income families, or proves conclusively that it is the best way to impact price in order to impact demand.
"Supply and price are far from the only factors in driving alcohol misuse. Demand and attitudes are crucial. We need to understand much better the psychology behind why different groups of people drink alcohol in excess. The root causes of social problems lie not just in government policies – although 24-hour drinking legislation has severely undermined clinician and police efforts to get to grips with this problem - but in social norms and peer influence."
Meanwhile, another NICE recommendation is that GPs should be asking ten "alcohol screening" questions about their patients' alcohol intake, whilst hospital doctors should ask patients in A&E if their injuries could be related to drinking. This did not go down well with Alex Deane of Big Brother Watch:
“This is typical nanny statism from a bullying, increasingly authoritarian organisation. We are entitled to have a drink when we want one. Doctors are there to heal us, and can keep their opinions about lifestyles to themselves unless asked – after all, we pay the tax which pays for the health service. A database of smoking or drinking could, in the long run, be used to charge us when we need medical help and may frighten people away from seeing doctors or from being honest with them."