Health warnings wanted on wine bottles

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HEALTH WARNINGS should be introduced on wine bottles in a bid to combat problem drinking amid escalating concerns over the drain on the NHS from patients suffering from alcohol-related conditions.

The Government has been urged by the All Parliamentary Party Group on Alcohol Misuse to introduce labels on alcohol products to caution about the harmful effects of drinking. Health warnings are a prominent feature on tobacco products, but consumer information provided on alcohol packaging only extends to volume strength, according to the group.

Its members have called on political parties to commit to 10 recommendations which they say will help to minimise alcohol-related harm in the UK – including the introduction of health warnings on alcohol products.

Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, the chairwoman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse, said: “The facts and figures of the scale of alcohol misuse in the UK speak for themselves – 1.2m people a year are admitted to hospital due to alcohol, liver disease in those under 30 has more than doubled over the past 20 years and the cost of alcohol to the economy totals £21bn.

“Getting political parties to seriously commit to these 10 measures will be a massive step in tackling the huge public health issue that alcohol is.”

The long-running issue of problem drinking – especially at home behind closed doors – has been a topic that the Government has repeatedly attempted to tackle. Ministers announced in 2008 that they were targeting so-called “middle class wine drinkers” who consume too much alcohol at home under a national alcohol strategy.

The Yorkshire Post revealed the same year that a hidden problem of alcohol abuse was blighting one of Yorkshire’s most affluent cities as the middle classes drink to excess in their own homes. York’s affluent districts have been seen as particular problem areas, and plans were drawn up by the city council to warn households about the dangers of excessive drinking.

The latest warning from the All Parliamentary Party Group on Alcohol Misuse has claimed consumer information on alcohol products “usually extends no further than the volume strength and unit content”, and it has called for labelling to include an “evidence-based health warning”.

The group also called for the introduction of a mandatory minimum price per unit for alcohol, the strengthening of regulations surrounding alcohol marketing and a reduction of the drink-drive limit.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, the vice-chairman of the group, stressed alcohol is the second biggest preventable killer after smoking, and said: “Not only does it cost lives but burdens the NHS and the criminal and justice systems and others with ever increasing costs. All the political parties know that but they run for cover when they are confronted by the drinks industry and its immensely powerful lobby.

“These proposals give them another chance to consider whether they really have the guts to take a different line for the country’s wellbeing in the future.”

The chief executive of Alcohol Concern, Jackie Ballard, added: “We need urgent action to tackle this and the significant harmful effects alcohol misuse causes to individuals. I hope all parties will read the manifesto and show a commitment to the vital measures which it highlights.”

Comment: Page 10.