A synthetic “hangover-free” alcohol product could have “seismic effects on public health”, a report from the Adam Smith Institute has claimed – but warns it is being blocked by government regulations.
The study said that the innovation, currently named “Alcosynth” – which gives the drinker the sensation of tipsiness without the loss of control – could be up to 100 times safer than the real thing due to the lack of toxins.
The report – Sinnovation: How markets can solve public health problems – claims that “heavy-handed” EU and UK government regulations have held back the development of safer alternatives to drinking and smoking and says that public health officials pursuing abstinence campaigns to the detriment of risk reduction products that could save thousands more lives every year.
But alcohol campaigners warned that increasing the price, reducing the availability and restricting the marketing of alcohol were more effective ways of reducing the impact of the drug on Scottish society.
Alison Douglas of Alcohol Focus Scotland said: “Scotland continues to experience the highest rates of alcohol harm in the UK, with 22 Scots dying every week last year due to alcohol. Steps are being taken to begin to turn the tide on this shocking picture but more must continue to be done to change the pro-alcohol culture in our country.
“The idea that a synthetic alcohol product could provide the same public health benefits is far from proven and given the scale of the problem we face, our efforts are much better spent on measures which we know to work.”
The product, a derivative of benzodiazepine, was created by David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacology professor at Imperial University in London. The Adam Smith report said that the introduction of e-cigarettes had been similarly hampered by regulation and pointed to rules which stop e-cigarette companies from marketing their health benefits in comparison to traditional tobacco-based smoking.
It called for the UK government to scrap the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive when Britain leaves the EU.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Any products intended for human consumption need to comply with the relevant EU and domestic legislation. The Scottish Government has taken robust action in tackling alcohol misuse since 2008 – the quantity discount ban, improved substance misuse education and the new lower drink drive limit.”