Enough alcohol was sold in Scotland in 2016 for every adult to significantly exceed safe drinking levels each week

New figures published this week reveal that enough alcohol is being sold in England and Wales for every drinker to consume 21 units of alcohol a week – far more than the low-risk level of 14 units per week for both men and women recommended by the UK’s chief medical officers. The figures reveal that the situation is even worse in Scotland, with enough alcohol being sold for every drinker to consume 24 units a week. The data was released by NHS Health Scotland, who also looked at consumption in England and Wales in order to compare patterns across the UK. In 2016 10.5 litres of pure alcohol were sold per adult in Scotland, equivalent to 20.2 units per person per week!

“As a nation we buy enough alcohol for every person in Scotland to exceed the weekly drinking guideline substantially” Lucie Giles (author of the report)

The annual report from NHS Health Scotland brings together data on alcohol retail sales, price and affordability, self-reported consumption and alcohol-related deaths, hospital admissions and social harms. It found that in 2015 an average of 22 people per week died in Scotland due to an alcohol-related cause, a figure 54 per cent higher than that recorded in England and Wales. In the most deprived areas of Scotland alcohol-related death rates were six times higher than in the wealthiest areas. Rates of alcohol-related hospital stays were also nine times higher.

However, the report said there were some signs that Scots were curtailing their drinking habits, with self-reported data showing that the proportion of tee-totallers has also risen.

“This has harmful consequences for individuals, their family and friends as well as wider society and the economy. The harm that alcohol causes to our health is not distributed equally; the harmful effects are felt most by those living in the most disadvantaged areas in Scotland.” Lucie Giles

To tackle high levels of alcohol-related deaths and illness, Scotland is set to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol; designed to target cheap, high-% alcohol drinks favoured by vulnerable and harmful drinkers.. The Scottish government passed minimum unit pricing over 5 years ago, though implementation of the measure has so far been delayed due to legal challenges from the alcohol industry. Minimum unit pricing formed part of the Westminster government’s alcohol strategy in 2012, though has yet to be implemented in England and Wales. 

“This report shows that, whilst some progress has been made in tackling alcohol misuse, we need to do more. Over the last few years, more than half of alcohol sold in supermarkets and off-licences was sold at less than 50p per unit, and enough alcohol was sold in the off-trade alone to exceed the weekly drinking guideline by a considerable amount. That is why we need minimum unit pricing, which will largely impact on the off-trade and will increase the price of the cheap, high strength alcohol.”  Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell

Responding to the publication of the figures, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA), said: 

“These figures are shocking and show why minimum unit pricing is needed in Scotland, as well as in the rest of the UK. As a result of the legal challenges from the alcohol industry, lives will undoubtedly have been lost in Scotland. We hope and expect minimum unit pricing to be ruled legal in the final court hearing in this case in July, so that implementation in Scotland can follow.

“If minimum unit pricing is ruled legal in Scotland, a decision by Westminster to delay would be a death sentence for some, including many from the lowest income groups. The evidence is already clear – minimum unit pricing saves lives, prevents illness and lowers hospital admissions.”

The NHS Health Scotland figures are available here.

For more information on Minimum Unit Pricing, check out a report from the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group.

More posts related to this one:
Alcohol-related Hospital Admissions are at a Record High!
“Government has ‘no sense of direction’ in reducing devastating alcohol harm” Lord Brooke
Experts call for action on HIGH STRENGTH CIDER to protect the homeless and the vulnerable.

 

 

Vaping may help explain the record fall in UK smoking rates – Press Release with comments from UKCTAS Directors

UK smoking rates showed a record annual fall between 2015 and 2016 of 1.5 percentage points, based on new statistics released today [Link]. The prevalence of smoking among people aged 18 and above in 2016 was 15.8%, the lowest on record. This dramatic reduction is also the second largest annual fall in the last 40 years.

The UK is an international leader in smoking prevention policy, having introduced high tobacco taxes, a comprehensive advertising ban, prohibited smoking in public places, taken tobacco products out of sight in shops, establishing specialist stop-smoking services and a range of other measures. These policies have caused a sustained downward trend in adult smoking prevalence over the past two decades. Over the past five years, however, the rate of decline has increased substantially, falling by 4.4 percentage points, from 20.2%, since 2011.

Today’s new figures indicate UK smoking is falling faster than would be expected from conventional tobacco control approaches. While all the policies put in place will have made a difference, the most likely explanation for the recent rapid decline is the increasing use by smokers of electronic cigarettes as a substitute for tobacco. Data released by ASH last month estimated that there are now 1.5m people in the UK who used to smoke but now instead use electronic cigarettes.

Professor John Britton said:
“Electronic cigarettes were patented in 2004 but we began to see their use in the UK from around 2010. Since then the proportion of smokers using them has risen steadily. They have rapidly become the most popular aid to stopping smoking, and are now used in more than one third of quit attempts. At first we were unsure what their impact on smoking rates would be, but today’s figures suggest that alongside established tobacco control policies, they may have significantly accelerated the downward trend in smoking”

“Overall these findings vindicate UK policy on vaping: and that doing more to encourage more smokers to make the switch could generate huge benefits in public health: especially among those groups in society where smoking remains common.”

Professor Ann McNeill said:
“Since the millennium the UK has implemented a comprehensive tobacco control strategy to encourage and support smokers to stop and to deter young people from taking up smoking. This strategy included encouraging smokers to switch from deadly cigarettes to less harmful forms of nicotine including electronic cigarettes. It is really important that the new government continues this comprehensive approach and publishes its new Tobacco Control Plan as soon as possible, particularly given the need to tackle inequalities in smoking rates across society. In times of austerity, tobacco control is a good investment, as it benefits not just smokers and their families, but services like the NHS which bear the enormous costs of treating smoking-related illnesses”

Professor Linda Bauld added:
“The UK has taken a liberal approach to vaping, supporting the use of these consumer products for smokers who choose to use them. This has been controversial, and other countries have taken a much more restrictive approach. These new prevalence figures for adults, alongside steady declines in youth smoking uptake, suggest that electronic cigarettes may turn out to be a game changer for tobacco control. However, we know that many smokers are still wary of these products and think they are as harmful as tobacco. That needs to change if the positive trend we see from today’s figures is to be maintained.”

• Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2016 – Released 15 June 2017 External Link

• Smoking statistics in England – 15 June 2017 – Latest smoking compendium report signposting to all the up-to-date smoking data. External Link

 

Download the PDF version of this Press Release

 

The Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group’s 20th anniversary priority setting project report.

Cochrane TAG anniversary Twitter banner
The Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group (TAG) conducts and facilitates systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the research evidence for tobacco cessation and prevention interventions. The group was founded in 1996 and in 2016 they conducted a stakeholder engagement project to celebrate the 20th anniversary of TAG and to identify future research priorities for the group and the wider tobacco control community.
 
 

The objective of the project was to:

  • Raise awareness of Cochrane TAG and what has been achieved so far.
  • Identify areas where further research is needed in the areas of tobacco control and smoking cessation.
  • Identify specific goals for Cochrane TAG
  • To explore novel ways to disseminate the findings of tobacco research, and Cochrane TAG’s findings.

The survey and workshop resulted in 183 unanswered research questions in the areas of tobacco, quitting smoking and eight priority research areas, including:

  • ‘addressing inequalities’
  • ‘treatment delivery’
  • electronic cigarettes’
  • ‘initiating quit attempts’
  • ‘young people’
  • ‘mental health and substance abuse’
  • ‘population-level interventions’
  • ‘pregnancy’

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Stakeholders who attended the workshop also discussed ways that the public health community and Cochrane TAG could act to move the field of tobacco control forward.

Through this report, Cochrane TAG want to share the identified unanswered questions with the wider tobacco research community to help them to decide the most important research to focus on in the future, and to decide the most important things to work on for Cochrane TAG.

This will involve updating existing reviews, beginning reviews on new topics, and looking in more detail at Cochrane TAG’s research methods.

Contrary to popular belief there are still many important unanswered questions in the field of tobacco control. In addition, it has been noted that many of the results of tobacco control questions are not always reaching their intended targets. Tobacco control stakeholders provide a rich source of information on how these uncertainties should be prioritised; by using this resource the likelihood that the findings of research are useful and will be implemented is much greater. The project was carried out with the hope that researchers and research funders will be able to use the priorities identified to inform their future practice, in the same way that Cochrane TAG are using them to inform new review topics, updates of reviews and methods development.

Cochrane TAG’s findings and implementation suggestions should be considered alongside the existing evidence base and clinical expertise.

 
Here is the full report of the CTAG taps project!
 
You can open the report and the appendices by clicking on the covers below:
ctag_taps_final_reportctag_taps_final_report_appendices
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Discussing the future of tobacco addiction research with the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group:

The CTAG taps project ran from January-December 2016. Activities carried out from April 2016-December 2016 were funded by the NIHR School for Primary Care Research (SPCR)

Introducing a new International Workshop: The Ubiquity of Alcohol – 20/09/2017

We are delighted to announce the launch of a brand new international workshop focusing on the ubiquity of alcohol.

Addressing Marketing, Availability and Industry Influence:

Alcohol is no ordinary commodity but its presence and marketing seem ubiquitous. In this workshop, we will explore how policymakers, public health experts and researchers are responding to industry efforts to expand the presence and normality of alcohol in our lives. With inputs from leading international researchers and advocates we will explore alcohol marketing and availability in a digital age; industry manoeuvres, and potential countermeasures.

This years workshop will feature sessions from a variety of speakers including a session on Alcohol Marketing and the loi Évin, which is a French alcohol and tobacco policy that was passed in 1991. In this session Nathan Critchlow from the University of Stirling and Prof Karine Gallopel-Morvan from the EHESP School of Public Health, France will look at consumer marketing of alcohol brands in a digital age, controlling alcohol advertising and lessons learnt from the loi Évin.

We also have inputs from a variety of speakers from a number of organisations that focus on alcohol harm, including Jon Foster from the Institute of Alcohol Studies and Alison Douglas & Laura Mahon from Alcohol Focus Scotland.

We are also pleased to announce that Prof. Mike Daube from Curtin University, Australia will be joining us to discuss advocacy on alcohol advertising and the influence of the alcohol industry. To discuss the alcohol industry in more detail we also welcome Prof. Jeff Collin from the University of Edinburgh. Jeff is a regular speaker at the Alcohol Policy in Practice CPD and provides a deep insight into the alcohol industry actions.

The Ubiquity of Alcohol

Location: University of Stirling

Date: Wednesday 20th September

Cost: Standalone workshop cost: £150.00

More informationwww.ukctas.net/ubiquity

This workshop is included in our 4 day Alcohol Policy in Practice CPD course we run every September, to find out more information about this course and it’s content please click here.

 

Alcohol and breast cancer – How big is the risk? ~ Report from the World Cancer Research Fund

Half a glass of wine a day increases breast cancer‘ was just one of the headlines this WCRF_main-150x150week, which discussed a report that reinforced the evidence that alcohol can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

The report from the World Cancer Research Fund outlined the latest evidence on how we can reduce that risk – focusing on weight, physical activity and drinking.

The WCRF studies all the evidence on a potential risk and decides whether it’s strong enough to be a basis for making recommendations to the public.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, and 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives. And since we know that almost a third of breast cancer cases in the UK could be prevented, largely by changes to lifestyle, this is important stuff.

While the cause of an individual’s cancer can never be certain, there are still things you can do to reduce your risk. And evidence like this is the first step to helping women to do just that.

So what exactly does the report say?

Alcohol

The report backs up previous research showing that drinking alcohol can cause 7 types of cancer  including breast cancer. Even though it’s in the headlines, this is nothing new.

While the reports may sound alarming, we also know that the more you cut down, the more you’re reducing your risk.

170523-Alcohol-and-breast-cancer-risk-update.jpg

Although most women don’t regularly drink very large amounts of alcohol, thousands of cases of cancer – including breast – are linked to alcohol each year.

There are 3 good theories on the link between alcohol and cancer which we’ve written about before.

  • When we drink alcohol, it’s broken down into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde can damage the DNA inside our cells, and then prevent damage from being repaired. This is important because it allows cancer to develop.
  • Alcohol can increase the levels of certain hormones in the body, including oestrogen. We know that high levels of oestrogen can fuel the development of breast cancer, so this might be particularly important here.
  • Alcohol also makes it easier for cells in the mouth and throat to absorb other cancer-causing chemicals. This is probably more important for other cancer types linked to alcohol rather than breast cancer.

170523-Women-drinking-in-England-update_blog.jpg

Physical activity

The evidence on the link between breast cancer risk and both weight and physical activity is a bit more complicated. This is because there is evidence that the causes of breast cancer that occur in women before the menopause, compared to after the menopause, are different.

But overall there is strong evidence that keeping a healthy weight and being physically active, can help prevent breast cancer.

Unlike its previous report, this time WCRF says that some forms of physical activity probably reduce the risk for pre-menopausal breast cancer But the finding is only true for ‘vigorous’ activity – exercise which gets you breathing hard and your heart beating fast, so that you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

The report also adds to the existing evidence that physical activity at any age is related to a lower risk of breast cancer in women after the menopause. This can be anything that gets you a bit hot and out of breath – from fast walking, to cycling, or even heavy housework. And the more you do the better.

Body weight

The evidence on weight and breast cancer is also complicated: as your risk changes depending on the ages at which you were overweight.

But overall the report agrees with previous work showing that being overweight or obese throughout adulthood causes postmenopausal breast cancer, something that is already well established.

Bringing it all together

Other things that affect a woman’s breast cancer risk are less easy to control. As with most cancers, the risk of developing the disease increases with age. Having a family history of the disease can increase a woman’s risk, and breastfeeding can reduce it.

All the different things that can increase the risk of breast cancer are held together by a common thread: they all affect the hormones circulating around in the body in some way.

Hormones help control what happens inside our bodies by sending messages from one place to another – including instructing cells when to stop and start multiplying.

If this system goes wrong, cells can get too many messages telling them to make more cells. And that can lead to cancer.

Overall the best advice is the same as at the start of the week: to keep active, keep a healthy weight throughout life, and limit alcohol.

Originally posted on CRUK, taken from Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute

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Study finds poorest of us at greater risk of harm from heavy drinking.

Drinking heavily is more harmful to the poorest people in society, who are at greater risk of illness or death because of alcohol consumption, according to a recent medical study. Published in medical journal The Lancet Public Health on Wednesday, it found there is a marked link between socio-economic status and the harm caused by drinking alcohol excessively.

Researchers taking part in the study found increased alcohol consumption was “disproportionately harmful” to the poorest in society. Compared with light drinkers in advantaged areas, excessive drinkers were seven times at risk of an increase in alcohol harm.

This contrasted with excessive drinkers in deprived areas, who were 11 times at risk of an increase. Harmful impacts of alcohol are higher in socio-economically disadvantaged communities. However, until now it was unclear whether those were as a result of
differences in drinking or as a result of other factors.

Lead author Dr Vittal Katikireddi, of the University of Glasgow, said:

“Our study finds that the poorest in society are at greater risk of alcohol’s harmful impacts on health, but this is not because they are drinking more or more often binge drinking.

“Experiencing poverty may impact on health, not only through leading an unhealthy lifestyle but also as a direct consequence of poor material circumstances and psychosocial stresses. Poverty may, therefore, reduce resilience to disease, predisposing people to greater health harms of alcohol.

The authors linked different sets of data to bring together information from Scottish Health Surveys with electronic health records, studying more than 50,000 people.
It suggested that even when other factors are accounted for, including smoking and obesity, living in deprived areas was consistently associated with higher alcohol-related harms. Researchers defined harm from alcohol consumption based on deaths, hospital visits and prescriptions that were attributable to alcohol.

Study co-author Dr Elise Whitley said:

“Heavier drinking is associated with greater alcohol-related harm in all individuals. However, our study suggests that the harm is greater in those living in poorer areas or who have a lower income, fewer qualifications or a manual occupation.

Responding to the study published on Wednesday in The Lancet Public Health which found that drinking heavily is more harmful to the poorest people in society. Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA), said:

“The findings in this study are worrying if not altogether surprising. It is clear that the way alcohol is being sold and promoted in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK is harming some of the most vulnerable people in society. On the other hand, we know what needs to be done, in particular to tackle the scourge of cheap alcohol. In real terms, alcohol is 60% cheaper than it was in 1980 and measures like strength based pricing would disproportionately benefit the poorest groups, in terms of reduced deaths, illness and hospital admissions.

Studies have shown that 82% of the lives saved through minimum unit pricing would come from the lowest income groups. Overall, in the first year alone minimum unit pricing in Scotland is expected to save 60 lives and lead to 1,600 fewer hospital admissions and 3,500 fewer crimes, yet its introduction has been held up for years by alcohol industry legal challenges.

Importantly, minimum unit pricing would leave pub prices untouched, and moderate drinkers would spend only about £2.25 extra per year with a 50p minimum price.”

This is even more evidence of the Alcohol Harm Paradox, which refers to observations that lower socioeconomic status (SES) groups consume less alcohol but experience more alcohol-related problems. However, SES is a complex concept and its observed relationship to social problems often depends on how it is measured and the demographic groups studied. A study published in 2016 hoped to deconstruct this idea and assessed socioeconomic patterns of alcohol consumption and related harm using multiple measures of SES and examined moderation of this patterning by gender and age. You can read the research article here: Deconstructing the Alcohol Harm Paradox: A Population Based Survey of Adults in England



Citation of original research article:

Socioeconomic status as an effect modifier of alcohol consumption and harm: analysis of linked cohort data. 

Dr Srinivasa Vittal Katikireddi, Elise Whitley, Jim Lewsey, Linsay Gray, Prof Alastair H Leyland. Published: 10 May 2017 – Open Access DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30078-6


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10th annual Global Research Awards for Nicotine Dependence (GRAND) program

GRAND is a Pfizer-supported independently reviewed competitive grants program awarding individual grants of up to $200,000 from a total fund in 2017 of $1 million to support projects which directly advance the use of pharmacotherapy for treating users of any nicotine or tobacco product in clinical practice. Of 486 applications received since 2008, 62 grants have been awarded.

Pfizer has called for Clinical research proposals that aim to increase the understanding of the mechanisms of tobacco and nicotine dependence and its treatment. The overall mission of the GRAND program is to advance the pharmacological treatment of tobacco and nicotine dependence.

Each proposal should fall into one of the following areas:

  • Human laboratory (e.g., pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, cravings, withdrawal);
  • Pharmacotherapy of smoking cessation and relapse, and / or its interaction with behavioral support;
  • Characterization of subtypes of smokers; suitability for appropriate interventions.

Research projects should aim to provide information that could directly advance the use of pharmacotherapy for treating users of any nicotine or tobacco product in clinical practice. Examples could include:

  • Observational or interventional studies of pharmacotherapy
  • Optimization of the use of currently available medication
  • Effectiveness of pharmacotherapy in real-life settings
  • Development or use of new medications for cessation or harm reduction
  • Specifically designed pharmacotherapy in subtypes of tobacco/nicotine users
  • Use of existing databases to inform the clinical use of pharmacotherapy
  • Policy interventions to increase use of pharmacotherapy.

The intent of the program is to fund at least 6 awards of between $50,000 and $200,000 in value, totaling $1.2 million. The awards are open to all investigators and they would strongly encourage applications from junior investigators.

Applications will be formally assessed by, and only by, the GRAND Review Committee, an independent committee comprising internationally prominent researchers in the field. The final responsibility for selection of Awardees rests with the Co-Chairs of the Review Committee, John Hughes and Karl Fagerstrom. The whole process is completely independent of Pfizer, including the final selection of Awardees.

GRAND is open to all investigators from around the world holding an MD, a PhD, or equivalent.

Application deadline: July 3, 2017

To apply for the grant and for more information on the application process click here!