Henry Ashworth on the new alcohol pledges

“Yesterday, senior executives from 22 drinks producers and retailers presented a new set of voluntary actions under the Public Health Responsibility Deal. These represent the drinks industry’s continuing commitment to tackle alcohol misuse and promote responsible drinking, as well as demonstrating the real effectiveness of voluntary action.

“Today’s pledges, published on the Department of Health website, build on the existing commitments by drinks businesses under the Responsibility Deal. They take the drive to eliminate alcohol harms to a new level. They are wide-ranging in the issues they address and targeted at the communities and issues that need the most support. This reflects the complexity of alcohol misuse and the disproportionate harms suffered by some communities. The actions are innovative and include life-skills training in schools, responsible serving training for bar-staff, health labelling and information at point of sale, responsible can packaging and co-ordinated targeted local action.

“The hallmark of all the pledges is their practicality. They have been designed by people who understand the UK’s changing drinking culture and how to build on the positive changes in harmful alcohol consumption that we’re seeing nationally. The measures introduced today are pragmatic and achievable because they have been drawn up by drinks producers and retailers working in partnership with government. It’s an approach that creates real results, quickly, as it builds on the drinks industry’s strong track record on implementing voluntary measures.

“There has been public criticism of the Responsibility Deal from some health bodies who chose to walk away from this innovative partnership approach. By sticking with the deal, drinks producers and retailers have shown that they are determined to combat alcohol misuse. It also shows that voluntary measures, backed up with public commitments, are a great framework to improve public health. Voluntary action is fast and effective and builds a sense of shared responsibility towards reducing harms, and at no cost to the taxpayer.

“The critics would do well to consider what has already been achieved under the Responsibility Deal. The commitment to remove a billion units from the market is well on track with over 250m units delivered in the first year. I am also delighted to say that Ministers confirmed that our product labelling pledge (A1) has delivered 79.3% coverage (as measured by products on shelves) against an 80% commitment. This is an incredible achievement and provides consumers with important information and advice on the lower risk daily guidelines right at their fingertips.

“Drinks producers and retailers are responsible businesses, determined to play their part in reducing alcohol misuse and building a culture of responsible drinking. Positive change on this scale cannot happen overnight but I believe that partnership between business, Government, local authorities, the public health community, NGOs and local communities is by far the fastest and most effective way to achieve it.”

You can read the latest set of Responsibility Deal alcohol pledges here.

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