Basking in Team GB’s success in what was a great Olympic Games, we can’t ignore an unresolved issue for sport, namely sponsorship.
We know that drinking is part of our culture and most people drink responsibly. Nor would anyone deny our athletes their post medal partying or Bradley Wiggins his vodka and tonic celebration. But this is not a weekly event for them.
Binge drinking, however, is sadly too common - accounting for half of all alcohol consumption. Almost one million crimes each year are alcohol related.. An investigation into alcohol fuelled violent offending by girls is now planned. Many people pre-load on discounted booze before going out.
Last month Parliament’s Health Committee reported on the Government’s Alcohol Strategy. Its recommendations deserve wide debate. Alcohol misuse costs the NHS in Wales £85 million, with 13,000 hospital admissions a year – physical and mental health can suffer.
So the cost of alcohol misuse is high and paid for by all of us.
First of all we need to get the facts and message right about what’s a sensible amount to drink.
Many of us know the relaxing qualities of a drink after work. In our armed forces, research found a higher level of alcohol consumption than the civilian population, but units that drank together showed better cohesion and higher morale. So as with most things in life it’s about getting the right balance.
The Health Committee’s call for more research into the health effects of different levels of alcohol consumption and clearer guidelines is essential..
The Welsh government rightly advocates a minimum price for alcohol. Should it be 50p per unit. I’m happy to start here and see if it’s effective. But action on price alone is not enough.
I’d certainly ban all cinema advertising (except where a film has an 18 certificate), as a first step. But for young people I’m sure digital marketing is the main influence. Reports say Diageo has considerably increased its advertising budget for social media – so it must expect a return.
When a majority of our primary school children recognise Fosters and Smirnoff as alcoholic drinks and 62% recognise Magners, surely we need more effective controls on advertising and sports sponsorship?
As the Royal College of Physicians says “alcohol is drug of dependence and a psychoactive drug. It happens to be legal”. No-one wants to make it illegal, but it should be handled with care.