Page last updated at 23:10 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 00:10 UK

Industry drive to curb drinking

Beer drinking
Alcohol abuse costs the NHS billions of pounds a year

Britain's drinks industry is launching a £100m government-endorsed campaign to discourage excessive drinking among young adults.

The Campaign for Smarter Drinking, supported by 45 companies, is one of the largest of its kind and aims to advertise throughout England.

Under the slogan "why let good times go bad?", the campaign will emphasise "practical tips" for safe drinking.

But one doctors' body says raising alcohol prices would be more effective.

The industry campaign is due to be launched on the day MPs hear more evidence on the use of alcohol.

The health committee will hear from the government's chief medical adviser, Sir Liam Donaldson, who wants to see a minimum price for alcohol to curb consumption.

How to get home

While younger drinkers still have the lowest alcohol-related death rates, the figures have gone up slightly in recent years, according to the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics.

We're facing a growing public health problem where people are regularly drinking too much or are dependent on alcohol
Andy Burnham
Health Secretary

The campaign is intended to run for five years. It aims to emphasise the benefits of "responsible enjoyment" and offer practical tips about eating and drinking water while out and thinking about getting home.

The adverts will appear outside, in bars and at cashier desks. The slogans will also appear on millions of bottles and cans of drink.

A launch advert is appearing in Thursday's edition of the Times.

Jonathan Neame, head of brewer Shepherd-Neame, said the initiative was "part of the answer" to the problem of alcohol misuse.

Elizabeth Crossick of drinks company Brown-Forman: "Anti-social behaviour is bad business"

"In the end, we can only achieve change if people take responsibility for their own behaviour and this campaign will help them make informed choices."

At £100m, the campaign is a significantly more expensive campaign than the government-backed Change For Life.

Government ministers have said they will support the campaign for one year, with further support conditional on an independent analysis of its effectiveness.

Taking note

Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham said: "While the vast majority of people who drink enjoy alcohol in moderation, we're facing a growing public health problem where people are regularly drinking too much or are dependent on alcohol.

"Clearly the industry has a responsibility to play their part in tackling this problem and I hope this campaign will make a real difference to people's attitudes to drunkenness and their drinking behaviour."

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said: "This campaign will complement the wide range of actions we are already undertaking to address binge drinking, including giving police more tools and powers to tackle disruptive drinkers and consulting on new rules to ensure that businesses that sell alcohol are doing it responsibly."

Meanwhile ministers in Scotland are planning to press ahead with plans for a minimum price per unit of alcohol. When these ideas were put forward for England, they received a lukewarm response from Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians and chair of the UK Alcohol Health Alliance, said he was sceptical the campaign would work.

"There is very little evidence that health messages work to prevent binge or harmful drinking.

"Instead, all the international evidence shows that increasing the price and reducing the availability of alcohol, together with bans on advertising, are the main methods of reducing alcohol-related harm.

"We need strong government action in these areas right now."

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: "This new initiative appears to be yet another example of the drinks industry trying desperately to avoid mandatory legislation to pass on health information to consumers."

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