New Publication from the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group: Model-based appraisal of the comparative impact of Minimum Unit Pricing and taxation policies in Wales

Three quarters of all alcohol consumed in Wales is drunk by less than a quarter of the adult population who are hazardous or harmful drinkers and spend up to £2,882 per year on booze, research has revealed.

A report looking into the potential impact of minimum unit pricing and taxation policies in Wales was published Thursday 22nd February by the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group at the University of Sheffield.

The publication, which found that the 3% of the population who are harmful drinkers, account for 27% of all alcohol consumed, comes after the Welsh Government announced a new Bill that, if agreed by the National Assembly, will introduce a minimum price for the sale of alcohol.

The Bill, which is designed to reduce hazardous and harmful drinking would make it an offence for alcohol to be supplied below that price.

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Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething said: “People who drink alcohol at hazardous and harmful levels drink 75% of the alcohol consumed in Wales.

“The introduction of a minimum unit price would be effective in reducing alcohol consumption among these groups, as well as reducing the number of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalisations.”

The availability of cheap, strong alcohol is estimated to lead to 50,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions a year, costing the Welsh NHS £120 million annually and, in 2015, there were 463 alcohol-related deaths in Wales.

The report reveals the population of Wales buys 50% of its alcohol for less than 55p per unit, 37% for less than 50p per unit and 27% for less than 45p per unit, with heavier drinkers being more likely to buy alcohol sold below these thresholds.

Mr Gething said: “The report shows the greatest impact of a minimum unit price would be on the most deprived harmful drinkers, while moderate drinkers would experience only small impacts on their alcohol consumption and spending.

“This is because moderate drinkers tend to buy alcohol which would be subject to little or no increase in price under the policy.

“If passed, this law will potentially save lives.”

The research also shows harmful drinkers spend an average £2,882 a year on alcohol, or around £7.80 per day, compared to £1,209 for hazardous drinkers and £276 for moderate drinkers.

The Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, commissioned by the Welsh Government in June 2017 to update a 2014 appraisal of the likely impact of a range of minimum unit pricing policies, concluded a minimum unit price set at between 35p and 70p would be effective in reducing alcohol consumption among hazardous and, particularly, harmful drinkers.

Research highlights:

  • Moderate drinkers drink an average of 211 units of alcohol per year compared to 1,236 for hazardous drinkers and 3,924 for harmful drinkers.
  • Harmful drinkers spend an average £2,882 a year on alcohol compared to £1,209 for hazardous drinkers and £276 for moderate drinkers.
  • Alcohol-attributable deaths and hospital admissions are concentrated in hazardous and particularly harmful drinkers who are more deprived.

External news coverage:

75% of alcohol in Wales is drunk by just over a fifth of the population according to new report – ITV News

Minimum alcohol price help call for ‘hazardous’ drinkers – BBC News

75% of alcohol drunk in Wales consumed by 22% of the population, report says – Guernsey Press

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UKCTAS welcomes the ruling in favour of MUP! Minimum unit pricing will save lives, reduce hospital admissions and cut crime! #MUPsaveslives

In a landmark ruling, seven justices unanimously rejected a challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association that Scottish proposals for strict price controls were illegal under EU trade rules. The ruling comes after a five-year legal battle against the measures, which were passed by the Scottish parliament in 2012 but then fought by the Scotch Whiskey Association and two European wine and spirits industry bodies all the way to the European court of justice.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, first suggested the measure nine years ago while acting as the Scottish health secretary. The supreme court ruled on Wednesday 15th November that “minimum pricing is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

Prof Petra Meier, director of the alcohol research group at the University of Sheffield, which published the data and evidence that Sturgeon’s proposals were based on, said a 50p minimum price would in time result in 120 fewer deaths and 2,000 fewer hospital admissions from alcohol abuse each year.

“Our research has consistently shown that minimum unit pricing would reduce alcohol-related health problems in Scotland by targeting the cheap, high-strength alcohol consumed by the heaviest and highest-risk drinkers. Moderate drinkers would be affected to a much smaller degree.”

They said protecting public health outweighed the damage to free trade which the spirits industry and EU wine producers said they wanted to protect. “The courts should not second-guess the value which a domestic legislator puts on health,” the judges stated.

With Welsh ministers and the Republic of Ireland introducing similar measures, health campaigners in England said the ruling left the Westminster government isolated, and removed the last legal barrier to minimum pricing.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said:

“We are delighted with the Supreme Court’s judgement that minimum unit pricing is legal and can be implemented in Scotland. The decision today represents a great victory for the health of the public.

“Five years ago the legislation introducing MUP passed through the Scottish Parliament without opposition. It has taken five years to implement for the simple reason that the Scottish Whisky Association and others chose to challenge it in the courts. In that time many families have needlessly suffered the pain and heartache of losing a loved one.

“This decision has implications far beyond Scotland. Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are now clear to progress their own plans for minimum unit pricing.

“The spotlight should now fall on England, where cheap alcohol is also causing considerable damage.  Over 23,000 people in England die every year from alcohol-related causes, many of them coming from the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society. We urge the Westminster Government to act now and introduce the measure in England. A failure to do so will needlessly cost more lives.”

Scottish ministers are expected to introduce a minimum price of 50p a unit for alcoholic drinks by spring next year, in a bid to cope with increasing deaths and hospitalisations from alcohol abuse. Health campaigners say the strongest but cheapest ciders were so cheap in Scotland an adult could consume their maximum recommended weekly limit of alcohol – 14 units – for £2.52. The cheapest fortified wine came in at 27p per unit, while the cheapest vodka and gin was 38p. That rate will force up the price of all alcoholic drinks so that a standard bottle of whisky will cost £14, regardless of its wholesale cost, although the Scottish measures mean retailers will keep any surplus profits once prices rise.

The Welsh government has said it would press ahead with proposals it published last month to implement minimum pricing, with Welsh ministers also evaluating a 50p minimum price. Ministers in Northern Ireland have also backed the policy, but implementation has stalled after the collapse earlier this year of Stormont’s power-sharing administration. The Republic of Ireland is also considering similar measures.

The Alcohol Health Alliance UK, which includes the British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs, is drafting a joint letter to the UK government formally urging ministers to reinstate plans for similar measures in England.

Urged on by the medical profession and some police commissioners, the UK government came close to following Scotland’s lead while David Cameron was prime minister, but after disputes in cabinet the proposal was dropped. The Home Office, which takes the lead on alcohol control policy, said it noted the supreme court’s ruling but said it would only keep the issue under review. A spokeswoman said ministers in London would watch its implementation in Scotland, but Home Office officials were unable to specify how long ministers would wait before reaching a decision.

The department said its focus now was on using other measures to control excessive alcohol consumption, including higher duties for high-strength ciders, and lower duty for lower strength wines. There were campaigns and initiatives by NHS England to support problem drinkers. The SWA acknowledged defeat, and said it would help ministers implement the strategy. But it warned that imposing strict price controls would increase the risk of other countries using the policy as justification for higher tariffs on Scotch whisky imports, damaging its £5bn-a-year export trade.

The brewing trade was split: major brewers, such as the makers of Tennents lager and Magners cider, with higher cost brands and a significant stake in supplying pubs, welcomed the court’s decision. The real-ale campaign group Camra denounced it, saying it “penalises moderate and responsible drinkers while doing little to support those who have issues with alcohol abuse”.

Dr Eric Carlin, director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, a campaigning body backed by the medical profession, lambasted drinks companies for their “ferocious, cynical” opposition to the measure.

“The opponents to MUP have shamed the reputation of their industry by prioritising profits over people’s lives. As MUP has been delayed, we have seen the tragic, premature deaths of 24 people every week in Scotland as a result of alcohol misuse, many of them in our poorest communities, and affecting families across our nation,” he said.

Twitter posts about the decision:

News reports on the decision:

UK supreme court rules minimum alcohol pricing is legal – The Guardian

Minimum alcohol pricing: How will new policy affect you? – STV

Campaigners urge minimum alcohol price in England after Scottish ruling – The Guardian

Minimum alcohol pricing is a chance to tackle a problem which is ruining Scotland’s health – The Scottish Sun

Green light for minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland – PharmaTimes

Scots get set for ‘booze cruises’ into England as Supreme Court clears the way for minimum alcohol prices – Daily Mail

Full coverage of the decision on google.news!

Report conducted at the University of Sheffield provides ‘clear and compelling’ new evidence on the effectiveness of minimum unit pricing.

Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

alcoholThe report, published by the Foundation for Liver Research, predicts that 32,475 of the deaths – the equivalent of 35 a day – will be the result of liver cancer and another 22,519 from alcoholic liver disease.

In its new report, Financial case for action on liver disease, endorsed by the independent Lancet Commission on Liver Disease, the Foundation for Liver Research urges the Government to implement a suite of policy measures designed to mitigate the rising health and financial burden of alcohol, including the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP), re-institution of alcohol duty escalator and advertising restrictions.

  • Between 2017 and 2022 the total cost to the NHS of alcohol-related illness and deaths will be £17 billion.
  • Study shows introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol could significantly reduce the burden.

Providing evidence in support of Government intervention, new modelling shows that within five years of its introduction in England, a 50p MUP alone would result in:

  • ian gilmore quote21,150 fewer alcohol-related deaths
  • 74,500 fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions
  • Savings of £325.7m in healthcare costs
  • Savings of £710.9m in crime costs

The total financial savings to the public purse of MUP is forecast to be £1.1 billion – the equivalent cost of the Government’s recently announced investment package for Northern Ireland.

Colin Angus, Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield and part of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group who conducted the research, said:

“These new findings show there will be 35 deaths and 2,300 hospital admissions due to alcohol every day in England over the next five years. We estimate this will cost the NHS £17 billion at a time when healthcare resources are already overstretched. Our research also shows that policies such as Minimum Unit Pricing have the potential to significantly reduce this burden.”

Liver disease is one of Britain’s biggest killers, claiming about 12,000 lives a year in England alone. The number of deaths associated with it has risen by 400% since 1970. It is estimated that 62,000 years of working life are lost every year as a result of it. People who develop serious liver problems also suffer some of the worst health outcomes in western Europe.

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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.

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Alcohol-related Hospital Admissions are at a Record High!
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Experts call for action on HIGH STRENGTH CIDER to protect the homeless and the vulnerable.

 

 

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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Alcohol-related Hospital Admissions are at a Record High!

New figures released this week shows that hospital admissions due to alcohol are at their highest ever levels.

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The data, summarised in a release from NHS Digital, shows that alcohol-related hospital admissions in England have increased by 64% over the last decade, with an extra 430,000 people being admitted due to alcohol-related causes in 2015/16 compared with 2005/06.

This takes the total number of alcohol-related hospital admissions to over 1.1 million in 2015/16.

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Alcohol is linked to over 60 illnesses and diseases, including heart disease, liver disease and cancer. Figures from the local alcohol profiles for England show that admissions due to liver disease have gone up 57% over the last decade, and that the number of people diagnosed with alcohol-related cancer has increased 8%.

In contrast, separate data released today by the Office of National Statistics shows that the proportion of adults drinking is at its lowest level since 2005, with younger people more likely to be abstaining from alcohol. However, 7.8 million people admit to binge drinking on their heaviest drinking day.

In response to the figures, alcohol health experts called for more to be done in the UK to tackle the health harm done by alcohol.

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

“These figures show that the UK continues to have a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol. We know that over the long term, rates of binge drinking are falling, and more people are choosing to abstain from alcohol. Worryingly, however, these trends do not appear big enough to stop alcohol harm from continuing to rise, and the sharp increase in alcohol-related hospital admissions over the last few years means hundreds of thousands more people each year are experiencing the misery associated with harmful alcohol consumption.

“The data released today should be sobering reading for whoever wins the upcoming general election, and we would urge the next government to make tackling alcohol harm an immediate priority to save lives, reduce harm, and reduce the pressure on the NHS.”

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 The data is available via the following links.

Research Report | Foul Play? Report highlights how Alcohol industry bent the rules on advertising during UEFA Euro 2016

A new report highlights how alcohol producers worked to circumvent legislation designed to protect children during the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament. Researchers at the Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling, found over 100 alcohol marketing references per televised match programme in three countries – France, the UK and Ireland. Most marketing appeared in highly visible places, such as pitch-side advertising during the matches. This was the case, despite the fact that the tournament was held in France, where alcohol TV advertising and sports sponsorship is banned under the ‘Loi Évin’.

The report, Foul Play? Alcohol marketing during UEFA Euro 2016, will be launched at the European Healthy Stadia conference at Emirates Stadium on Thursday 27th April.

An analysis of broadcast footage found that alcohol marketing appeared, on average, once every other minute. The majority took the form of ‘alibi’ marketing, whereby indirect brand references are used to promote a product, rather than a conventional logo or brand name. Carlsberg was the most featured brand, accounting for almost all references in each of the three countries, using their slogan ‘Probably the best in the world’ while avoiding the mentioning the product name. ‘Alibi’ marketing was a common practice of tobacco companies in sporting events when advertising restrictions were introduced.

Dr. Richard Purves, Principal Investigator, Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling said:

“Beamed to audiences across the world, major sporting events such as the UEFA EURO tournament, present a prime opportunity for alcohol companies to market directly to a global audience.  In order to continue to protect children and young people from exposure to alcohol marketing, laws such as those in France need to be upheld and respected by all parties involved and not seen as something to be negotiated.”

Katherine Brown, Director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies said:

‘There is strong evidence that exposure to alcohol marketing encourages children to drink earlier and in greater quantities. The findings of this report show that alcohol companies are following in the footsteps of their tobacco colleagues by bending the rules on marketing restrictions putting children’s health at risk.’

Eric Carlin, Director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), said:

‘Sport should be an alcohol-free space. The presence of alcohol marketing during UEFA EURO 2016 highlights that organisers of sporting events need to hold out against tactics of big alcohol companies to flout legal regulations designed to protect children.’

Read the full report here: https://bit.ly/alcfoulplay

The research was carried out by the Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling, and funded by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), and Alcohol Action Ireland.