Speaking to health select committee MPs inquiry into the government’s recent alcohol strategy public health minister Anne Milton said although the government acknowledges a link between alcohol advertising ‘exposure’ and alcohol ‘consumption’, there was ‘insufficient evidence that the rules need to be strengthened further.”
Her policy adviser, the department of health deputy director for alcohol and drugs Chris Heffer, added: “Our focus is on pricing and licensing – that is where the UK evidence is strongest.”
However she said she was keeping an ‘open mind’ and revealed the government was ‘working with’ the Advertising Standards Association (ASA) to discover a way of quantifying the level of impact caused by advertising on consumption.
Her comments come after a row erupted this week over evidence compiled for the health committee by an alliance of doctors and health groups calling for stricter curbs on alcohol marketing.
The Alcohol Health Alliance was accused of ‘quackery’ by ISBA this week after making a case for the UK to mirror an approach taken in France which prohibits alcohol advertising when children could be a significant proportion of the audience.
Milton also admitted under questioning by MPs that effective ‘messaging’ about safe drinking levels has been ‘neglected’.
Ensuring the public understand guidelines on safe drinking levels ‘has been neglected’ and the government has a battle to ‘provide information so people accept that alcohol can harm their health,’ she said.
She added that ‘public understanding of the unit system is poor’, but said it is starting to be addressed via Change 4 Life marketing activity.
Meanwhile, commenting on the Government’s current consultation on the introduction of minimum pricing of alcohol, she said there is “good evidence that alcohol consumption levels are price sensitive.”