This week a report by Mintel suggested the tea industry should pitch itself as an alternative to alcohol, amid warnings that the cuppa would continue to lose share to coffee and soft drinks.
I guess that’s one way to stop people drinking too much alcohol: unleash Stephen Fry, Ben Fogle and a woollen monkey against the collective might of Diageo, Heineken et al. They must be quaking…
To be fair, the suggestion was borne of a desire to help the tea industry compete, not to tackle alcohol abuse. But the polarity between this rather sweet solution - as well as news of the development of a phone app that helps you tot up your tipples - and the string of tough new measures (including tobacco-style pictorial health warnings) in this week’s manifesto by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse was striking.
“Alcoholic drink pictorial health warnings a step too far but what’s the harm in providing more information?”
Adam Leyland, Editor
So: what to think about the 10-point manifesto’s proposals? The kneejerk industry reaction is to reject all forms of interference, and legislation in particular. But I’m actually in favour of more information being more consistently included on alcoholic drinks. It’s anomalous to have so much information now on not only the back but the front of soft drinks packaging, while booze is mostly devoid save for the abv. The total calories in a can or bottle would be useful. So would the number of alcoholic units.
On other points I am less convinced. The health lobby calls for ‘evidence-based’ health warning labels. But what ‘evidence’ is there that these warning labels would work? We all know too much alcohol is bad for us. How would pictures of cirrhotic livers alter this? Besides, the dangers of alcohol relate not just to physiological illnesses but to depression, crime and accidents caused by loss of one’s faculties.
But the most compelling argument made by the Portman Group in its rejection of the proposals is the fact that EU-supported legislation would take years, and in the meantime progress is being made voluntarily. For some, nanny will always be better than nudge. But if the industry can be nudged to a speedier conclusion, where’s the harm in that?