In England, heavy drinkers account for two-thirds of alcohol sales

SHEFFIELD, England — A recent study finds that more than two-thirds (68 percent) of all alcohol sales in England are to adults who drink quite heavily.

Researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group say that if all British adults drank responsibly, that is, complied with the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations on alcohol consumption, the alcohol industry would decline by 13 billion pounds, or 38 percent.

Despite the findings, people who routinely drink more than what is recommended make up only about a quarter of the population. True alcoholics, or those who drink at “harmful” levels, according to the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations, make up only four percent of the population — but account for about a quarter of the total alcohol revenues.

“Our analysis shows that if everyone in England drank within the guidelines, the average price of a pint in a pub would have to rise by £2.64 and a bottle of wine in the supermarket by £4.36, in order to maintain current levels of revenue for the alcohol industry,” says Colin Angus, Research Fellow with the Alcohol Research Group, in a news release. “The size of these increases cast serious doubt on the industry’s claims that it supports moderate drinking.”

The researchers broke down their data to show how alcoholism has helped specific types of retailers and businesses. For example, supermarkets have a greater share of their revenue tied to heavy drinkers than pubs, clubs, bars, and restaurants.

Lead author Aveek Bhattacharya, Policy Analyst at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, suggests that there should be better regulation of the alcohol industry with more than 24,000 deaths and 1.1 million hospitalizations in the country every year blamed on alcohol.

“The government should recognize just how much the industry has to lose from effective alcohol policy, and be more wary of its attempts to derail meaningful action through lobbying and offers of voluntary partnership,” says Bhattacharya. “Protecting alcohol industry profits should not be the objective of public policy – previous research has shown that reducing alcohol consumption would not only save lives and benefit the exchequer, but could also boost the economy and create jobs.”

The study was published August 22, 2018 in the journal Addiction.

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