Dr PETER Rice (Comment, 30 August) is right to say action is required to tackle alcohol misuse in Scotland. But he is wrong is his assessment of the drinks industry’s views and misguided in the conclusions he draws from the latest alcohol statistics.
While a 4 per cent fall in alcohol sales in Scotland from 2010 to 2011 suggests overall consumption levels are falling – and this fits the pattern of an overall fall in alcohol consumption in the UK of 13 per cent since 2004 – no one doubts Scotland has a problem with alcohol misuse.
Moreover, no one disputes the notion that price is likely to have an impact on consumption levels. But there is no evidence to suggest price increases will curb problem drinking. A minority misuses alcohol, while the majority drinks responsibly. And the figures – in Scotland and the rest of the UK – suggest trends are heading in the right direction.
Dr Rice should recognise and welcome this trend, rather than cherishing the unproven virtues of minimum unit pricing which will unfairly punish the majority of consumers. What is needed is a range of policies that will deliver long-term cultural change – including education, enforcement and partnership working at local level – including with the drinks industry – to combat problem drinking and related antisocial behaviour.
We all want to see a reduction in alcohol misuse. But there is no silver bullet here. We must work together to target a minority problem – and on the basis of a range of approaches that have actually been proven to work.
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association
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