Friday, March 5, 1999 Published at 00:38 GMT
Alcohol abuse targeted
Bar staff may be trained to be more socially responsible
The drinks industry has called for a major drive to target serious alcohol abuse.
The Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association (BLRA) says policies should concentrate on people with a serious drink problem, rather than on raising fears among moderate drinkers.
It has written to Health Minister Tessa Jowell calling for the government to join forces with pubs, breweries and retailers to thrash out the best way to tackle the problem.
The BLRA said training programmes for licensees and modern design of pubs and restaurants had helped reduce alcohol-related public order problems.
The industry is also considering the introduction of training-based qualifications for licensees which will place a heavy emphasis on social responsibility.
The report said: "The industry has invested very heavily in refurbishing pubs and in new buildings to give public houses a more open and less intimidating atmosphere, which is attractive to women and to families.
"This discourages rowdy and inappropriate behaviour. The use of well-designed premises, which can be managed more easily ... contributed to a more comfortable atmosphere.
"Clearly this investment has been commercially carried out with expectations of attractive returns on the capital invested, but also in the belief that such outlets are a socially responsible investment - the product of enlightened self interest."
This would be made up of the drinks industry, the British Medical Association, the chief medical officer and groups such as Alcohol Concern.
It called on the government to work with the industry, the police, health workers and other agencies to combat the problems caused by alcohol abuse.
A spokesman for the BRLA said: "Any credible strategy against alcohol misuse should start, as the government has previously acknowledged, from the stance that the moderate consumption of alcoholic drinks is accepted as perfectly compatible with a modern healthy lifestyle and go on to find a better way to assess and reduce the harm resulting from misuse by a minority."
Dr Bill O'Neill, ethics and science advisor for the British Medical Association, said the association would welcome any involvement in an advisory committee.
But he said: "We would want any group to look at more than just the misuse of alcohol. It should also have an educative function.
"What is required is a positive strategy giving advice on both the appropriate and inappropriate use of alcohol."
People spent £29.2bn on alcoholic drinks in 1997 - 5.1% of their disposable income.
A 1994 survey found that 8% of men (17% in those aged 20-24) and 2% of women had an identifiable "alcohol dependency".