How will alcohol sales in the UK be affected if drinkers follow government guidelines?

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Baumberg Geiger, Ben (2009)

Aims: The proportion of alcohol consumption that is above government guidelines ('risky drinking') has been estimated in several countries, suggesting that reductions in risky drinking would lead to significant declines in total alcohol consumption. However, this has not previously been conducted transparently in the UK. Furthermore, existing studies have under-explored the importance of several methodological decisions, as well as not closely examining the meaning of these figures for debates on 'corporate social responsibility' (CSR). Methods: Secondary analysis of the amount of alcohol consumption above various government guidelines in four British datasets for 2000-2002: the National Diet and Nutrition Survey; the General Household Survey; Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People; and the March 2002 ONS Omnibus Survey. Results: Risky drinking accounts for 55-82% of the total consumption by 18- to 64-year olds, depending on the definition of risky drinking used. If only alcohol above the government guidelines is counted, this falls to 22-475. Consumption by underage drinkers accounts for 4.5% of the total consumption, while consumption by drink-drivers accounts for 0.5-8.0% depending on the assumptions made. Conclusions: Methodologically, the study shows that at least two decisions have considerable importance: the definition of risky drinking used and whether we count all drinking (as in most previous studies) or only drinking above guidelines. Substantively, these studies do not directly show that drink companies' profitability would be affected by declines in risky drinking. Nevertheless, they are valuable for present debate in themselves and form the basis of a more complex analysis of alcohol CSR.
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