Government review slated as knee-jerk reaction to media

Industry hits back at suggestion promotions linked with binge drinking

Drinks trade figures

are sceptical

about a government review o f links between the pricing and promotion of alcohol and irresponsible drinking.

The Department of Health-led review is one of a number of measures in its latest alcohol strategy aimed at promoting a "sensible drinking culture" .

The DoH has not revealed who will be asked to contribute to the review - due to be published in April next year - but the industry hopes

to be fully consulted.

Bargain Booze joint managing director Matthew Hughes said the review was a "knee-jerk reaction" to the stance taken by some national newspapers.

He said: "In some measure it's probably been a long time coming, but it's something we should try

to resist as much as possible. It's not the case that saving more when you buy in bulk will result in increased consumption."

Both the British Retail Consortium and the WSTA said there is no evidence that alcohol price, promotion or advertising encourage alcohol misuse.

WSTA chief executive Jeremy Beadles added: "We would be very concerned if the government were to seek to restrict the industry's ability to compete and to offer a wide range of consumer choice and good value."

Other steps concerning drinks retailers

in the Safe, Sensible, Social strategy include renewed support for test purchasing campaigns and an expectation that all retailers adopt Challenge 21.

The DoH

will launch a consultation in November 2008 to find out if health warnings on alcohol - currently voluntary for producers and suppliers - should be made a n obligation. The government

also want s to target

under-18s, binge drinkers

aged 18 -24 and adult drinkers "unaware" of their unit intake

to help cut the £20 billion annual spen d on dealing with alcohol-induced crime and health problems.

Minister Vernon Coaker said: "W e are trying to

strike a balance between government intervention, community action and personal responsibility."

Analysis, page 14

Key actions in the strategy

Sharpened criminal justice for drunken behaviour

A review of NHS alcohol spending

More help for people who want to drink less

Toughened enforcement of under-age sales

Trusted guidance for parents and young people

Public information campaigns to promote a new "sensible drinking" culture

Public consultation on alcohol pricing and promotion

Compulsory local alcohol strategies.