A recent report on reducing harm from alcohol by the Government's strategy unit has been 'neutered' in comparison with the same study's interim findings, according to an editorial in this week's BMJ.
The report, Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England published last month, leads on education and communication strategies though such measures were shown to be largely ineffective in last year's interim report says Martin Plant, Professor of Addiction Studies at the University of the West of England. Rather than popular 'symbolic gestures' such as warning labels, politicians should focus on more far-reaching initiatives to change drinking culture, says Professor Plant.
Despite crime and disorder forming the largest section of the report, it stops short of recommending obligatory local action programmes, says Professor Plant, preferring instead to rely on voluntary schemes. The approach to the alcohol industry also lacks bite, focussing on encouraging better practices ? without recommending action for breaks to agreed codes of conduct. Alcohol is too important an issue for health and social policy, he says, for it to be left to voluntary compliance schemes.
Almost no mention is made of important issues such as gender, children of problem drinkers, and pregnancy ? all covered in the more comprehensive interim report. And while substantial increases in price are unrealistic politically, the report's abrupt dismissal of a possible role for taxation is unjustifiable, argues Professor Plant.
In the face of alarming rises in alcohol consumption, the complex relationship between people and alcohol, and its deeply embedded place in our culture, must be better understood and addressed, he concludes.
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