Alcohol industry 'makes billions of pounds from risky drinkers'


The alcohol industry is making tens of billions of pounds from people whose consumption is classed as "hazardous and harmful" to their health, according to reports.

Ongoing analysis of a nationwide health survey is thought to show more than two thirds of alcohol sales are to people at risk of either damaging their health or potentially dying from their alcohol intake.

The Guardian said research by Southampton University professor Nick Sheron, who co-founded the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), showed a large majority of alcohol sales go to high-risk drinkers.

He told the newspaper: "We looked at data from the Health Survey for England and ... found that in terms of the total alcohol consumed within that survey, 69% was consumed by hazardous and harmful drinkers together,"

Of the danger group 38% was consumed by "hazardous" or "increasing risk" drinkers who fell into the category because they exceeded the old guidelines of 14 units a week for women and 21 for men through bingeing or regular drinking.

The weekly limit for men has since been reduced to 14 to be in line with that of female drinkers.

The remainder of the 69% were drinkers who consumed so much alcohol they were classed as being addicted, consuming more than 50 units a week for men or 35 for women.

These drinkers were at risk of developing cirrhosis and cancer as a result.

Ongoing research by the University of Sheffield into alcohol sales in 2013 showed similar trends, according to the newspaper.

Based on figures for that year, alcohol sales in the UK were worth £45.5 billion, meaning  £14.4 billion in sales came from risky drinkers, while £9.3 billion came from harmful drinkers, equalling £23.7 billion.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the AHA, told the newspaper there was "no doubt" that the drinks industry relied "on excessive drinking to drive its profits" and suggested introducing a minimum unit price (MUP) to target high-strength drinks.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said they opposed the introduction of a MUP because it would "disproportionately impact responsible drinkers".