The Government has been urged to work more closely with the pub industry to address alcohol abuse rather than resorting to the "blunt instruments" of raising alcohol taxes and overhauling legislation.
The British Medical Association (BMA) is lobbying the Government for an increase in the taxation on alcohol, the introduction of legislation to restrict drinks promotions and an amendment to the Licensing Act to include public health stipulations.
In a report released last week, the BMA warned that the levels of alcohol consumption in the UK had reached "epidemic" proportions and successive governments had become too close to the industry when it came to controlling the way alcohol is sold.
Recommended action also includes reducing the drink-drive limit and requesting that licensing boards evaluate areas for the density of licensed premises while working closely with the police to reduce these "cluster areas".
But Michael Turner, executive chairman at Fuller, Smith and Turner and chairman of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), said the BMA had taken a simplistic approach.
"The real problem is drinking to excess, and we should be targeting those who misuse alcohol without collateral damage to the vast majority of people who drink responsibly," he said. "We already have the second highest beer tax in the EU. It's not about higher or lower taxes, it's about alcohol education. Using blunt instruments is an insult and very patronising to the vast majority of people in this country."
Turner said it didn't make sense to tackle alcohol abuse by raising duty. "The group the BMA is interested in are not going to be put off - they're already drinking the cheapest form of alcohol available," he said.
"It's important to recognise that the pub is the home of responsible drinking."
The BBPA, with the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), is campaigning for a freeze on beer tax in this year's Budget to help stimulate falling sales in the on-trade.
Read more on binge drinking at www.caterersearch.com/bingedrinking
By Christopher Walton
E-mail your comments to Christopher Walton here.