Crispin Acton, programme manager for alcohol misuse at the DoH, said although there was evidence of the impact of alcohol advertising itself, particularly on children, there are “some evidence gaps” on the effectiveness of interventions to limit advertising.
Acton told a hearing of the House of Lords home affairs, health and education sub- committee’s inquiry into a forthcoming new EU alcohol strategy that the government wanted to see “greater priority given to that issue”.
He added: “We see that as an important thing to be highlighted in the strategy and we have argued for that.”
But he resisted committee members’ suggestions that there should be tobacco-style restrictions on the way alcohol is marketed.
Acton said: “The evidence base of tobacco advertising and alcohol advertising are not the same. There needs to be more research.
“Potentially it could be shown that there are similarities and that interventions might be taken, but I don’t think we have enough evidence to show that at the moment.”
Acton told the committee that minimum unit pricing was “still under consideration” for England and Wales but that there were “a number of issues that are of concern”, including a possible rise in illicit trade.
He said the UK government supported Scotland in its legal battle in Europe to push through its own minimum unit pricing legislation, on the grounds
that it was “proportionate and non-discriminatory”. This was in line with EU rules which allow restrictions on competition because of public health concerns.
Lindsay Wilkinson, deputy director of the DoH, told the committee that the government continued to favour involving the drinks industry in tackling alcohol misuse.
“We do believe alcohol manufacturers and retailers have a significant contribution to reducing health,” she said.
“They can reach consumers in a way we can’t do by any other means.”