LONDON: Alcoholic drink brands in England would lose almost 40% of their revenues, or an estimated £13bn, if consumers kept within official drinking guidelines, according to a new report that strongly criticises the motives of the drinks industry.

Analysis by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) and the University of Sheffield has found that drinkers who consume more than the recommended limit of 14 units a week – roughly equivalent to six pints of beer or one and a half bottles of wine a week – provide 68% of industry revenue, despite accounting for just 25% of the population.

What’s more, the 4% of people who drink at harmful levels (more than 35 units a week for women and more than 50 units a week for men) generate around a quarter (23%) of sales revenue for the industry.

The researchers said that if everyone kept to the 14-unit limit, then the industry would be forced to make up the difference by raising the average price of a pint of beer in pubs by £2.64 and the average price of a bottle of spirits in supermarkets by £12.25.

Taken together, the findings led the academics to suggest that many producers and retailers may “have a strong financial incentive to ensure heavy drinking continues in order to stay profitable”.

“Alcohol causes 24,000 deaths and over 1.1 million hospital admissions each year in England, at a cost of £3.5bn to the NHS. Yet policies to address this harm, like minimum unit pricing and raising alcohol duty, have been resisted at every turn by the alcohol industry,” said Aveek Bhattacharya, an IOS policy analyst and lead author of the report.

“Our analysis suggests this may be because many drinks companies realise that a significant reduction in harmful drinking would be financially ruinous,” he added.

“The government should recognise just how much the industry has to lose from effective alcohol policies, and be more wary of its attempts to derail meaningful action through lobbying and offers of voluntary partnership.”

In response to the criticism, a spokesman for the Alcohol Information Partnership, an industry body, argued that alcohol consumption is declining and that it supports community projects to tackle harmful drinking, the Guardian reported.

“We firmly believe that a one size fits all approach is unhelpful and punishes the vast majority of people who enjoy a drink, but are not problem drinkers,” he said.

Sourced from IAS, Guardian; additional content by WARC staff