United Kingdom

Pub bosses slam WHO's plan to cut alcohol consumption by 20%

Pub bosses have slammed an 'arbitrary' World Health Organisation plan to slash alcohol consumption by a fifth - warning it would cost tens of thousands of jobs in the UK.  

The WHO's draft 'global action plan' says governments should be targeting a 20 per cent reduction in drinking per capita by 2030.

But the hospitality industry has warned that would be devastating as it reels from the impact of the pandemic, while critics said the focus should be on harmful drinking levels.  

Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association told MailOnline its analysis suggested lost sales would hammer employment.

'Reducing beer consumption by 20 per cent will result in over 83,000 jobs in hospitality and supply chain businesses being lost for good in the UK,' she said. 

'Our sector has just faced 18 months of lockdowns and restrictions that have destroyed trade and viability. 

'Now is the time to be supporting pubs and the hospitality sector, not proposing arbitrary targets on alcohol consumption that would hamper our recovery and further reduce trade.'

Pub bosses have slammed an 'arbitrary' World Health Organisation plan to slash alcohol consumption by a fifth

The WHO has been working intensively on the alcohol plan for well over a year, and it is expected to be formalised in time for next year

The WHO has been working intensively on the alcohol strategy for well over a year, and it is expected to be formalised in time for next year.

An early version of the proposals reportedly suggested barring pregnant women from drinking any alcohol, but that appears to have been watered down after it was branded paternalistic and sexist. 

The latest draft says one of the targets should be: 'At least 20 per cent relative reduction (in comparison with 2010) in alcohol per capita (15 years and older) consumption achieved by 2030.'

The UK government also raised concerns about the idea in its consultation response this month, suggesting any target should be based on harmful drinking.

'Consideration should be given as to whether targets solely focused on reducing alcohol consumption per capita are the most appropriate way to monitor progress in reducing alcohol-related harm,' the response said. 

'Including a target for a reduction in alcohol consumption amongst segments of the population known to experience the greatest harm, such as higher risk drinkers, may be of use.'

Christopher Snowdon of the Institute for Economic Affairs think-tank said the WHO might be playing a 'long game' and trying to secure legally binding targets later, as there was no chance of the 20 per cent reduction being achieved. 

'I think they are playing a long game here. The target cannot be enforced and it has got no chance of being met.

'Member states are being set up to fail. In the long-term they would like to see a framework for alcohol control with things like advertising control.

'They will say, ''right, we have tried it the voluntary way, we now need to take tough global action''. 

Ms McClarkin said: 'It must be remembered that pubs are more than a place to drink. They are the heart of the community and bring us together. They play a vital role in mental health and wellbeing. 

'The sector is already playing a leading role in helping those who wish to moderate their consumption with the growing range of innovative low and no beers that are increasing in popularity by the day. 

'The WHO should focus on encouraging the innovation and further investment of these products.'

The WHO, led by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (pictured), has been accused of setting member states up to 'fail' with the target 

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