|Written by Gemma McKenna
||The drinks trade is up in arms after being refused admission to a Scottish conference on alcohol and tobacco policy.
Anti-smoking charity ASH Scotland and Alcohol Focus Scotland have organised a policy summit entitled, “How can we innovate to change public attitudes towards tobacco and alcohol and reduce consumption?” but have barred the drinks from attending.
The event, which takes place on March 15 in Edinburgh, aims “to explore the links, differences and similarities between tobacco and alcohol in society and public health”.
Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon is the keynote speaker and the event will be chaired by health journalist and broadcaster Pennie Taylor.
Trade reacts angrily
“A single cigarette is bad for your health whereas moderate consumption of alcohol has proven health benefits.
“The decision by Conference organisers to refuse access to those from the industry who wish to discuss issues regarding alcohol misuse openly and honestly only adds to the impression that Alcohol Focus Scotland have their own agenda and wish to stifle debate.
“It is also at odds with the World Health Organisation global alcohol strategy which sees all stakeholders as having a role to play in tackling alcohol misuse.”
Barbara O’Donnell, director of operations at Alcohol Focus Scotland, said that since ASH was leading the conference it had agreed to follow its policy, and Sturgeon’s office said it was “up to organisers to invite who they wish”.
David Poley, chief executive of the Portman Group, said: “We can only urge all parties with an interest in tackling alcohol misuse to work together – refusing to engage with the industry is not the way to create a responsible drinking culture in the UK.”
Meanwhile Patrick Browne, of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said it was “very insulting” to be rebuffed. “Public money is being used to fund this event and restricting who attends adds to the insult.
“Alcohol is not like tobacco, there are no safe levels of consumption for tobacco. To link the two together is a mistake and a false connection. They are different, and the legislation around both is different.”