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Call for consideration over sale of pre mix cocktails

We’re calling on sellers of pre-mix cocktails to give further consideration to how they’re packaged, marketed and displayed in shops.

Thanks both to BBC comedy Fleabag and the recent indiscretion of Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott the brightly coloured cans of pre-mixed spirit based drinks have got a lot of attention lately.

Martin Preston, Port of Call founder, said: “Often positioned by the checkout, alongside other impulse offerings, single-serve cans of pre-mixed alcoholic drinks encourage impulse purchase and drinking on the go.

“These are perfect for someone with or someone who’s developing a drinking problem and the brightly coloured packaging not only means they appeal to younger people but can also be consumed discreetly at lunchtimes, for instance.

“Alcohol has always been readily available yet it should be a considered purchase – and retailers have a responsibility not to advocate irresponsible drinking.

“Many calls into our helpline are from people who have crossed the line from heavy drinking into dependency. We often hear people describe how drinking more creeps up on them insidiously. With 1.3% of the adult population being dependent on alcohol, we already have a serious problem in the UK.

“All involved, including those who sell alcohol have a responsibility not to exacerbate this problem.”

Labour MP Ms Abbott was spotted sipping an M&S canned mojito on a Transport for London (TfL) overground train, where drinking alcohol is banned. She later tweeted an apology.

It said: “A photo of me drinking from a can of M&S mojito on the Overground has been circulated. I’m sincerely sorry for drinking on TFL.”

There were later reports in national media that sales of the £2 mojito cans had rocketed.

It came after M&S reported a 24 per cent rise in sales of its own-brand canned gin and tonics following them featuring as a favourite tipple of a character in Fleabag.

An M&S spokesman was by reported by Metro and other media saying: “Sales are up 24% since its TV appearance, as even more customers get their hands on the iconic drink, perfect for on-the-go.’

Many supermarkets now sell the pre-mixed cocktail cans. The packaging makes them appear fairly innocuous but the alcohol content is often high. The M&S single Mojito can has an 8% ABV.

Alcohol, addiction and denial is a huge problem for many people in our society. Last year (2017-2018) there were 1.2m hospital admissions where alcohol was a factor. More than one in four men (28%) drink at a level that puts them at increased or high risk of harm, according to the Health Survey for England.

Public Health England’s guidance ‘Alcohol commissioning support 2019 to 2020: principles and indicators,’ last updated in October 2018, said there are more than 10 million people in England drinking at levels that increase their risk of health harm, as stated in our recent ‘Attitudes to Addiction’ report.

NHS Digital’s Statistics on Alcohol, England 2019, report said alcohol had become 3.2% more affordable since 2008.

Many people live for years drinking heavily or even dependently without realising or accepting they have an alcohol problem. In England, the largest number of people in NHS treatment for alcohol addiction in 2017/18 were aged 45-49 years old, according to Public Health England’s report ‘Adult substance misuse statistics from the National Drug Monitoring System’, April 2017 – March 2018.

About the author: Martin Preston

Martin is our Founder and Chief Executive. Martin is himself in long term recovery and started Port of Call to help families navigate treatment options. In 2020 Martin will open Delamere Health Ltd, the UK’s first purpose built addiction treatment clinic.

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