The drinks industry ‘can’t be trusted’ to promote responsible drinking and is ‘undermining its own pledges’ to encourage safer use of alcohol, according to a new report from Alcohol Concern Cymru.
Among the examples cited in Creating customers is how Guinness and Smirnoff owners Diageo encourage publicans to urge customers ordering a single spirit measure to ‘make it a double’, while stating that people drinking irresponsibly is ‘not good for them, for society or for our reputation’. Bulmers owners SAB Miller, meanwhile, pledge not to target their marketing at anyone under the legal drinking age while also stating that ‘the younger generation have a much sweeter palate – we are playing to that’.
The corporate responsibility statements of drinks companies tend to concentrate on opposition to activities that either are already illegal – such as selling alcohol to children – or which carry a strong social stigma, such as drink driving, while emphasising the importance of ‘responsible’ drinking – a term that is simultaneously hard to define and ‘primarily assigned to the consumer’ rather than producers or retailers, says the report.
Alcohol Concern is calling for statutory rather than self-regulation, with ‘meaningful sanctions’ for non-compliance, and for messages about the safe use of alcohol to avoid ‘ambiguous concepts such as “responsible”’ and be drawn up by a body independent of the industry.
‘The big question is whether the people who make more profits the more alcohol we drink are really the best people to advise us on how to use it safely and healthily,’ said Alcohol Concern Cymru director Andrew Misell. Alcohol producers should have ‘no role in drawing up information or policy on safe drinking’, he stated.
‘Positive portrayals of alcohol, whether in programming, through product placement, or advertising encourage drinking. Where alcohol advertising is permitted, we believe the UK should follow the French example of only allowing factual messages and images that refer to the characteristics of the product: its origin, composition, strength, and means of production,’ he said. ‘Images that show drinking as part of an attractive lifestyle or social occasion should no longer appear in adverts.’