Doctors call for stronger government action on alcohol

In collaboration with the Press Association

The British Medical Association (BMA) has called upon the government to do more to tackle alcohol misuse in the UK.

Excessive drinking has been linked to over 60 medical conditions, including several cancers, as well as heart disease, hepatitis and diabetes.

Alcohol is estimated to cause around 2,000 cases of breast cancer every year in the UK and also increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, larynx (voice box), oesophagus (foodpipe), liver and bowel.

The BMA has now published a new report, 'Alcohol Misuse - Tackling the UK Epidemic', in which it calls on the government to implement a range of new control policies to reduce alcohol misuse.

The report points out that the UK has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption in Europe, with significant numbers of men and women regularly exceeding the recommended guidelines.

It also highlights the major variation in alcohol consumption between different ethnic groups, with only nine per cent of white Britons being non-drinkers compared to 90 per cent of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi population and 48 per cent of those of Black African origin.

The BMA recommends introducing higher taxes on alcoholic drinks and an end to irresponsible promotions.

It also wants to see a reduction in the legal driving limit from 80mg/100ml down to 50mg/100ml, as well as labels on all alcohol products giving details of units of alcohol, recommended guidelines and a warning about the dangers of excessive consumption.

The BMA's head of science and ethics, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, claimed that recent governments have "worked too closely with the alcohol industry and have pursued policies of deregulation and liberalisation regarding alcohol control".

Dr Nathanson noted that alcohol misuse "destroys lives", causing family breakdowns, contributing to domestic violence and crime, and claiming lives.

"Alcohol misuse not only costs lives it also costs the country many millions of pounds," she continued, adding that the NHS "spends millions every year on treating and dealing with alcohol problems".

The BMA's chairman of council, Dr Hamish Meldrum, said that the government should act on "strong and consistent evidence" that increasing the cost of alcohol reduces consumption and called for sufficient funding to refer at-risk patients to specialist centres.

He commented: "Our report is making some tough recommendations, but if the government is serious about tackling this issue this is what is needed."