Doctors call for an end to loyalty points for alcohol

By Nick Triggle
Health reporter, BBC News

Image caption,
There have been mounting calls to restrict loyalty points for alcohol

Tougher measures are needed to tackle alcohol abuse - including a clampdown on supermarkets offering loyalty points for purchases, doctors say.

The British Medical Association also want police to get tougher on drunkenness on public transport.

During a debate at the BMA's annual conference, medics said buses and trains were becoming no-go areas just as some city centres had become.

But they stopped short of agreeing to demand a ban.

London mayor Boris Johnson has stopped alcohol consumption on tubes in the capital.

However, doctors said an across the board restriction would be unfair on those who drink responsibly.

Public profanity

Instead, the BMA called for tougher action on drunkenness. Police are already able to arrest and warn people about drunken behaviour but there was a feeling this does not always happen.

Anaesthetist Dr Christine Robison, from Edinburgh, said alcohol was fuelling foul language and abusive behaviour on the public transport network.

She added: "City centres are no-go areas for many people and now public transport is little better."

The debate also led to them calling for a complete ban on alcohol advertising and a minimum price being introduced - something raised previously by the BMA but consistently rejected by ministers except in Scotland where there is a proposal before parliament.

Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said stopping UK supermarkets offering loyalty points would at least send the "right message".

"Most alcohol bought for consumption is from supermarkets. There is a need to send the right message on drinking behaviour by not allowing 'rewards' for buying alcohol."

In response, public health minister Anne Milton said the government was looking to tighten regulation, but would not commit to the measures proposed by the BMA.

She added: "I welcome the BMA's contribution to the debate on the number of ways we can reduce alcohol consumption."

A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium said: "Loyalty points are irrelevant. Irresponsible drinking is about culture, not price or promotions. Retailers are hugely engaged in achieving cultural change through education and information."

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