Dr Vivienne Nathanson: These firms have a vested interest in boosting sales

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The Independent Online

We badly need an alcohol strategy, but executives from the drinks industry are not the people we want writing it.

It is worrying that the industry has so many people involved in a group that is supposed to be advising the Government on alcohol policy. These are people with a vested interest in keeping sales high. They don't want alcohol associated with violence in the street, but they also don't want to lower their bottom line. That's why the strategy needs to be written, and only then should the industry be approached for its views.

The central problem is that people who understand the health problems associated with alcohol want to see something like a 40 per cent cut in sales. The drinks industry is obviously opposed to that. Price, promotion and availability are key to an alcohol strategy. The industry hates that. They say we are hung up on price. And yes, we are: the global evidence is that price matters.

Marketing too. If people see adverts suggesting alcohol is associated with success they are going to see alcohol as a desirable product and a normal product. We have to challenge that.

The writer is head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association