Following last week’s announcement that plain packaging would be put on hold, the decision to shelve minimum alcohol pricing has been met with dismay by many leading health experts.
While Minister Jeremy Browne has said the policy would remain under consideration, there was not enough “concrete evidence” minimum pricing could reduce the harmful effects of problem drinking without hurting those who drank responsibly.
We believe the Government has made the wrong decision. Deaths from tobacco use and alcohol are entirely preventable. It seems the Government has caved into pressure from both industries and in doing so has failed to cut levels of mouth cancer.
Both plain packaging and minimum alcohol pricing would help to reduce the number of people who develop the disease. Tobacco use and drinking alcohol to excess are the leading risk factors for mouth cancer, a disease many experts have forecast will rise over the next decade.
More than half of all current smokers will die through a tobacco-related illness, and it is still the biggest cause of mouth cancer. As alcohol aids the absorption of tobacco into the mouth, those who smoke and drink to excess are up to 30 times more likely to develop the disease.
So instead of heralding health improvements in the UK, too much time is still being spent talking about action.
People are drinking more and more these days and, with many so called ‘social smokers’ having a cigarette while they drink the likelihood is that the mouth cancer and other alcohol-related diseases will continue to rise until people are forced to take notice.
Over the years we campaign ceaselessly to raise awareness of mouth cancer. The disease kills more people than cervical and testicular cancer combined. During the next decade we estimate that around 60,000 people in the UK will be diagnosed with the disease, and without early detection half will die. Worldwide, over 460,000 people are expected to die from mouth cancer each year by 2030.
We hope the Government will take greater responsibility for public health and drive forward the changes needed.
Written by Dr Nigel Carter