Put alcohol health warnings on bottles, say MPs

Alcohol lines the shelves of an Off-License in Brixton

Explicit warnings and a lower drink-drive limit to tackle alcohol misuse: 'nannyish' or necessary?

LAST UPDATED AT 09:20 ON Mon 11 Aug 2014

Stronger measures are needed to warn the public of the dangers of excessive drinking, including health warnings on bottles of alcohol and a lower drink-drive limit, a group of MPs has recommended.

The All Parliamentary group on Alcohol Misuse is pushing for tobacco-style warnings to be carried on all alcohol products. They argue that the public had a "low understanding" of the health risks associated with drinking, which include liver damage, heart disease and cancer.

Ministers warned that alcohol misuse costs Britain £21 billion per year.

The parliamentary group also called for

  • A reduction of the drink-drive limit
  • The introduction of minimum-pricing on alcohol units
  • Stricter regulations on alcohol marketing

Calorie information should be also be prominently displayed according to the guidelines, as many people are unaware that a bottle of wine can contain up to 700 calories, the Daily Mail reports.  

The drinks industry has already complied with labelling 80 per cent of alcoholic beverages with unit information as well as warnings directed at pregnant mothers, but ministers feel this does not go far enough and have called for labelling to be more prominent.

Getting all political parties to commit to implementing these recommendations would be "a massive step in tackling the huge public health issue that alcohol is", Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, chairwoman of the parliamentary group, told the BBC.

Labour peer Clive Brooke, vice-chairman of the group, urged the government to stand up to the powerful drinks industry, The Guardian reports. He said all political parties were aware of the burden placed on the NHS as well as the criminal and justice systems by alcohol misuse, "but they run for cover when they are confronted by the drinks industry and its immensely powerful lobby".

However, not everyone agrees that stronger measures are needed. Despite being "terribly well meaning", the Telegraph reports, the latest recommendation have the "ring of Victorian paternalism" and are "nannyish and unnecessary".

It said "the elite" should not be "deciding for the uneducated masses what is good for them". The government should allow the public to make their own informed choices, rather than "bully them into making the 'right' ones". · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.