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The 2012 Alcohol Strategy for England

The Government’s most recent  Alcohol Strategy was published in March 2012 by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government.

It set out concerns about the availability of low-cost alcohol, related anti-social behaviour and excessive drinking at home.

The Government’s headline commitment within the Strategy was the introduction of a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol (the Government’s subsequent Impact Assessment (PDF) set the proposed MUP at 45p per unit) and a consultation on a ban on multi-buy promotions in shops.

The Government also challenged the alcohol industry, through the Responsibility Deal, to make more and quicker progress on the responsible production, sale and promotion of alcohol.

The Government made further commitments on advertising, localised responses to alcohol misuse.

Health organisations welcomed the Government’s commitment to introduce a MUP but suggested that more could have been done to address advertising practices. Industry groups argued that evidence to support an MUP was lacking and said that it would unfairly penalise responsible drinkers and burden businesses.

The Health Committee published a report (PDF) on the Government’s Alcohol Strategy in July 2012. It welcomed the Government’s decision to introduce a MUP for alcohol but urged the Government to clarify the evidence surrounding its proposed benefits and to set out expectations for the industry to take more responsibility for advertising practices.

Following a public consultation in 2012, the Government decided not to introduce a MUP in England. It said it would delay the introduction until there was “conclusive evidence that it will be effective”. A MUP has been introduced in Wales and Scotland.

In September 2022, the Government said it did not have plans to publish a new alcohol strategy.

Wider alcohol (and drugs) policy

In February 2019, Professor Dame Carol Black was appointed to lead a two-part review into drug-related harms and proposals to reduce them. Phase Two of the review made several recommendations to address alcohol dependency, treatment and support. This included securing more funding for alcohol-related services, improving the services available for young people dealing with substance misuse and improving school education on substance misuse.

The Government responded to the review in its December 2021 policy paper, From harm to hope: A 10-year drugs plan to cut crime and save lives. It accepted all of the review’s key recommendations. The Government committed to a range of work on substance misuse, including delivering at least 54,500 new drug and alcohol treatment places by the end of 2024/25.

The Government committed to consulting on introducing mandatory calorie labelling on alcohol by the end of 2020. This consultation has not yet been launched, but the Government said in July 2022 that it would do so “in due course”.

Statistics on alcohol dependency and treatment

The latest data from the Health Survey for England (HSE) shows that in 2021, 55% of adults in England reported drinking alcohol in the last week.

The Office for Health Improvements and Disparities has estimated that there were around 603,000 alcohol dependent adults in England in 2018/19.

The National Drug Treatment Monitoring System’s (NDTMS) statistical release for 2020/21 shows that that there were around 107,430 adult clients (aged 18 and over) in alcohol-related treatment (39% of all adults in substance abuse treatment) in England.

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