The government has ended talks with the drinks industry on tackling alcohol abuse, saying little has been done to protect public health over the past few years.
‘In essence, the difference in standpoints and interests between, say, the alcohol producers and health organisations is too great to be bridged,’ junior health minister Maarten van Ooijen told MPs in a briefing.
Describing the decision as ‘disappointing’ but ‘unavoidable’, Van Ooijen said recent figures on teenage drinking and age checks highlighted the fact that ‘the talks have not led to the necessary and effective measures needed to protect public health.’
The previous cabinet had set up the talks between a variety of interest groups, including hospitality industry body KHN and health insurers, last year as part of a wide-ranging strategy to tackle major health issues.
Ministers signed the National Prevention Agreement in 2018 with some 70 different organisations with the aim of slashing obesity, smoking and drugs and alcohol abuse. In particular, the aim is to reduce the number of problem drinkers from 8.9% of the population to 5% by 2040.
Earlier this month, two of the groups pulled out of the talks on alcohol because they disagreed with the government’s plan to allow ordinary shops to serve wine to their customers.
The World Health Organisation has also recommended tackling alcohol abuse via public health channels and excluding commercial interests, Van Ooijen said.
Talks will continue on achieving the targets agreed in 2018 but the drinks industry’s approval is no longer necessary, Van Ooijen said. Tobacco companies were also excluded from talks on reducing smoking.
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