Push for concept of 'passive drinking'

27 March, 2009

The chief medical officer for England and Wales wants "passive drinking" to be recognised as a concept and used as a reason for bringing in new legislation such as a minimum price on drink.

Sir Liam Donaldson groups drink driving, foetal alcohol disorders, drink-related crime, domestic violence, family breakdown, sexual assault ,

disruption, problems at work, unemployment, intimidating behaviour and an overburdened NHS as effects of "passive drinking".

He said the concept should gain the same

acceptance as passive smoking .

" The dangers of passive smoking were well known, but this was prompting little action.

"In contrast to smoking, alcohol is too often viewed as a problem for individuals rather than for society.

The second-hand effects of alcohol consumption - which I collectively term 'passive drinking' - are more complex in their causation than those of passive smoking ."

The call came in the chief medical officer's annual report, in which he also called for a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol.

He used statistics from the government's Sheffield Report into alcohol pricing and harm, which have been interpreted as showing that price hikes would have a disproportionate effect on moderate drinkers, to show that heavy drinkers would be more affected by increases.

"Implementing this minimum price-per-unit policy would save an estimated £1 billion every year, impact high-risk drinkers more than others and eliminate cheap supermarket drink that young people binge on," he said.

The Prime Minister has appeared to rule out minimum pricing for alcohol in England, saying that action on binge and under-age drinking should be "properly targeted and effective".

Gordon Brown said: "We don't want the sensible majority of moderate drinkers to have to pay more or suffer because of the excesses of a small minority. That is the context in which we look at the problems the chief medical officer has raised."

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