In his inaugural address as Visiting Professor at Manchester Metropolitan University, Sir Martin Narey, Chairman of the Portman Group, reflected on the need for more action to tackle alcohol harm and the need for more producers to join the Portman Group.

Speaking to the University, Sir Martin said:

“Most of us drink responsibly but a small proportion of the population do not. Drinking overall in the UK has fallen during the last decade and binge-drinking is in decline. But the worry is that about a third of the alcohol consumed in England is drunk by just 4% of drinkers.”

“If we are to reduce the proportion of the population who seriously harm themselves through drinking, if we are to discourage those drinking relatively modestly at the moment from drinking more and harming themselves and often those around them, we need health guidance which addresses the acute dangers of excessive drinking. We don’t have that at the moment.”

“Such guidance would certainly say that adults should seek to drink less than 14 units a week. It might also say that, occasionally, drinking a little more than this is unlikely to be dangerous. But it might warn you that regularly drinking much more than this is hazardous and is likely to lead to early death and a miserable quality of life along the way. Such guidance, effectively marketed, could do much to alleviate the harm, including harm to families, caused by those who drift into alcohol abuse.”

In his speech, Sir Martin also reflected on the progress the Portman Group had made in removing potentially harmful products from the market, but he was critical of large producers that do not support the Portman Group’s efforts to reduce alcohol harm. He said:

“We could have done more, and done so more quickly, if more alcohol producers were as courageous and as responsible as the eight companies which currently fund us. I’m not being critical here of small producers who might genuinely not be able to afford to support us but there are large drinks producers in the UK who fail to support the only organisation which regulates their industry; which takes harmful products out of the market; and, through informal advice, stops the appearance of so many more. Frankly, those companies should be ashamed.”