If we want to help alcoholics, we must swallow an awkward fact

Aveek Bhattacharya in New Statesman:

In late 2009, representatives of the alcohol industry were summoned to parliament to give evidence to a health committee inquiry into the government’s alcohol strategy. On four separate occasions, the committee returned to the same question: how would the alcohol industry’s sales be affected if people were to abide by the government’s drinking guidelines? They did not receive a direct response, but Asda’s corporate affairs director claimed that: “We would not encourage people to drink more than the recommended number of units per week”. The chief marketing officer of the multi-national drinks producer, Diageo, insisted that “we want a society where everybody drinks responsibly”. The chairman of the industry-funded Drinkaware Trust maintained that getting drinkers to keep to the guidelines would be “a major accomplishment and a real market success”.

In actual fact, the alcohol industry is highly dependent on heavy drinking. New research shows that two-thirds of alcohol sales revenue in England comes from people drinking above the low-risk guideline levels of 14 units a week (approximately six pints of beer or one and a half bottles of wine). Moreover, almost a quarter of industry turnover comes from the 4 per cent of the population drinking at levels defined by the government as harmful (over 50 units per week for men, or 35 for women).

More here.