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Government consumption guidleines

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What do the new drinking guidelines mean for the wine industry?

Sorry I’m slow on the uptake. What new guidelines?

Yes, you do really need to keep up. The Government’s Chief Medical Advisor, and her band of not so merry advisors, have issued new guidelines that claim any amount of alcohol is dangerous. But if we are to risk life and limb by imbibing then both men and women are warned 14 units a week will just about save them from an early grave.

Was the drinks industry not consulted? Sounds like it’s not been thought through?

Good to see you’re waking up. Frankly it’s a mess and the Department of Health has got a lot of egg on its face. Firstly, don’t panic. Despite the Chief Medical Officer claiming the new guidelines were effective immediately, they’re not. Nothing can realistically happen until April 1. That is when the consultation period with interested parties, including the drinks industry, finishes.

What is the industry doing about it?

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association has written to the Department of Health to get clarity on three key areas: how and when it wants the new guidelines implemented by the industry: whether the advice given will be a daily or weekly measure; and what evidence based research were the new guidelines based upon.

Do we need to take bottles off the shelf with the old guidelines on them?

No. Remember these health warnings are voluntary. If the drinks industry does not believe the new guidelines are credible, or factually correct, it’s not legally obliged to include them on its packaging. It looks like the industry will be scientifically deconstructing and challenging the viability of the new guidelines, so expect nothing to change in the short or medium term.

But with such draconian new drinking guidelines surely the Chancellor will have to put up duty in the Budget?

Not at all. As the WSTA says the two issues are completely separate and the Treasury is influenced about what is right for the Exchequer not the Department of Health.

The WSTA believes it is more likely to be influenced by the fact wine has contributed £81m in extra revenues (up 4.4%) to the Treasury since duty was frozen in the 2015 Budget and revenues from spirits are up £93m (up 7%) following its 2% cut.

The Prime Minister has also already dismissed allegations of running a nanny state. “This Tory is not a nanny.”

We’ll soon see.

Cheers

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