The UK (following France) is debating at the moment how to further regulate alcohol sales and advertising in the light of a worrying rise in teenage alcohol related deaths (nearly 2 per day - 23% of deaths). Problem is the industry itself which, under the guise of Corporate Social Responsibility, lobbies hard and succesfully to resist regulation.
Via the Portman Group, MEAS and drinkaware.ie (Diageo, Irish Distillers, Heineken etc) it also monopolises drink education, selling a message which is a very equivocal and watered down version of proper advice on the real dangers of alcohol. The BMJ has written unequivocally about "two pressing and uncontested problems: the excessive drinking of young people and their massive exposure to alcohol advertising". Though the Portman group continue to deny it (BBC 5 live yesterday), advertising works to build sales and binge drinking is becoming a growing danger in Ireland too.
Just as Bertie Ahern fuelled the property bubble by deregulating the banks, so the alcohol bubble grew when his government allowed a 70% increase in off licence outlets. Mary Harney as Minister of Heath also shelved regulation legislation after the industry lobbied succesfully via her husband. Surely there needs to be a review of the clearly failing self regulation in Ireland too.
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