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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jack Hibberd

The UK's alcohol trade bodies have denied reports that they have agreed to go along with' a Government move to introduce compulsory health warnings on all alcoholic drinks this year. In what appears to be a leak of the long-awaited Strategy Unit Report into alcohol-harm reduction, the Daily Mirror reported last Thursday, in a front-page article entitled War on Boozers', that the Government was preparing to put health warnings on all alcoholic drinks. Drinkers will find shock messages on bottles of booze in a move which copies the hard-hitting targeting of cigarette smokers,' wrote reporter Gary Jones. The Strategy Unit, which is sponsored by Number 10 and has been charged by the Prime Minister to apply blue-sky thinking to the nation's ills, refused to confirm or deny the report. The Daily Mirror added that the report contains a four-pronged strategy' to tackle misuse - health warnings, a public education programme, extra health service funds and licensing changes - and that the industry has gone along with the changes'. Quentin Rappoport, director of The Wine and Spirit Association, said: I have no idea if these reports are correct or not, and I would prefer to wait for the report's actual release to comment on it, but we have certainly not agreed to go along with anything.' Rappoport also said that introducing warnings this year', as the Mirror report suggests, would be unworkable: That would mean the relabelling of millions of bottles, which would simply be unworkable, not to mention expensive.' David Williamson, public affairs manager at the Scotch Whisky Association, agreed with Rappoport that there is certainly no agreement between industry and the Government' over the issue. This is still an "if" at the moment, but we think there are more effective ways to tackle misuse than health warnings. We would also want to see balanced warnings that admit the health benefits of moderate drinking.' The Strategy Unit report will be unveiled by public health minister Melanie Johnson shortly', according to a spokesperson.