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.

 

 

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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.

“Government has ‘no sense of direction’ in reducing devastating alcohol harm” | Lord Brooke

After Welfare, the cost of Health is the second biggest charge which Chancellors of the Exchequer have to deal with. Yet if one examines Budget speeches it rarely gets a mention, although in fairness to Phillip Hammond it did this year because of the crisis in Care which is directly linked to Health.

Health costs continue to grow at around 4% per annum but the economy is down around 2%. So with an aging population,the ‘health service car crash’ as one recent ex health service minister described it, every action must be taken or at least explored to avoid further injury or collapse.

That is what is at the heart of my debate – seeking changes that will reduce not only burgeoning public health costs but lead to healthier, happier and longer lives. As part of that, the Government must confront the stark challenge that alcohol abuse presents for the NHS in terms of financial costs, resources and impact on staff time and welfare.

Alcohol is estimated to cost the NHS around £3.5bn per year, which amounts to £120 for every taxpayer!

Even though drinking has declined marginally, there is a growing burden of alcohol related admissions and “activity” as our NHS tries to deal with the consequences of harmful drinking. This is not surprising when Public Health (England) recently reported:-

  • Alcohol is now the leading cause of death among 15 to 49 year olds.
  • There are now more than a million alcohol-related hospital admissions a year.
  • Alcohol caused more years of life lost to the workforce than from the 10 most cancers.
  • In England more than 10 million are drinking at levels that increase the risk of harming health.

There are 23,000 deaths related to alcohol in England each year, meaning that alcohol accounts for 10% of the UK burden of disease and death and is one of the three biggest avoidable risk factors of them.

Evidence indicates that the ease of access, availability and persistently cheap alcohol perpetuates these problems with deprivation and health inequalities particularly prevalent amongst men from lower socio-economic groups.

Alcohol is 60% more affordable today than it was in 1980. Affordability is one of the key drivers of consumption and harm: cheaper alcohol invariably leads to higher rates of death and disease.

David Cameron and the Coalition Government recognised this back in 2012 when they produced their progressive Alcohol Strategy. In its foreword he wrote”..and a real effort to get to grips with the root cause of the problem.That means coming down hard on cheap alcohol”

That hasn’t happened. Other aspects of the strategy have disappeared. There seems to be a vacuum with no discernible sense of direction. I will be pressing for one – the NHS certainly needs it.

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Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe is a Labour peer in the House of Lords.

Original post here: Politics Home

Experts call for action on HIGH STRENGTH CIDER to protect the homeless and the vulnerable.

The Alcohol Health Alliance and Thames Reach, the homelessness organisation, are today calling for duty increases on high-strength cider, which is a leading cause of death and ill-health among the homeless.

Experts will present evidence on this issue at an event taking place in the House of Commons today, sponsored by David Burrowes MP, aimed at highlighting the impact of alcohol on the homeless and vulnerable.

High-strength ciders, including products like Frosty Jack’s and White Ace, are nearly all drunk by homeless and dependent drinkers, and studies show these ciders are a favourite among children receiving treatment for alcohol dependence. Studies have found that 75-85% of high-strength cider drinkers choose it because of its low price. At typically 7.5% ABV, three-litre bottles of these ciders, which contain the same amount of alcohol as 22 shots of vodka, can be bought for as little as £3.49. This equates to just 16p per unit.

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The calls will put further pressure on the government to act on cheap, high-strength ciders in the budget in March.

In December, 43 organisations and experts from drinkingthe health, homelessness, children’s and religious sectors wrote to the Chancellor urging him to increase the duty on cider, and earlier this month polling was released which showed that 66% of the public back a cider tax. In addition, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has previously called for reform to address “the very low levels of duty charged on strong cider”.

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

“A can of 500ml cider at 7.5% is taxed less than a third of the amount taxed on a can of beer the same size and strength. There can be no justification for the low rates of tax on high-strength cider.

“Our calls today are not about the drinks consumed by moderate drinkers. Dependent and vulnerable drinkers account for nearly all sales of high-strength ciders, meaning increased duty would be targeted at them. Indeed, we know that 80% of total cider sales would be left unaffected by duty increases on these high-strength ciders.

“The budget in March represents an ideal opportunity for the government to protect the homeless and vulnerable through increased cider duty.”

Jeremy Swain, Chief Executive of Thames Reach, said:

“98% of the homeless people we work with who have alcohol problems primarily drink bottles and cans of these high-strength ciders and super-strength beers, which are far stronger than regular and premium drinks. A survey of deaths among hostel residents over the past year showed that 10 out of 16 were directly attributable to high and super-strength drinks. This is not a one-off figure. An earlier survey showed 11 out of 14 deaths (78%) were caused by high and super-strength drinks.

“By increasing the tax on these high-strength and dangerous products, the harm done to the vulnerable people we work with will diminish, and the opportunity to reduce, and ultimately end, dependence on alcohol will increase.”

David Burrowes MP is sponsoring the event in Parliament and has long-campaigned locally and nationally about the harms of alcohol. Mr Burrowes said:

“The government has rightly put social justice at the heart of everything they do, and this commitment should extend to preventing the damage done by cheap, high strength drinks, which blight the lives and health of those who need our support – the homeless and vulnerable.

“An increase in the duty on high strength cider at the upcoming budget would represent a step in the right direction to tackling the burden of cheap alcohol on some of our most vulnerable communities.”

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About the Alcohol Health Alliance UK

The Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) is a group of 50 organisations including the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of GPs, British Medical Association, Alcohol Concern and the Institute of Alcohol Studies.

The AHA works together to:

  • Highlight the rising levels of alcohol-related health harm
  • Propose evidence-based solutions to reduce this harm
  • Influence decision makers to take positive action to address the damage caused by alcohol misuse

For further information, please contact Matt Chorley, the AHA’s Policy and Communications Officer, at matt.chorley@rcplondon.ac.uk.

About Thames Reach

Thames Reach is one of the UK’s leading homelessness charities. Its vision is to end street homelessness and its mission is to provide decent homes, encourage supportive relationships and help people lead fulfilling lives.

Thames Reach runs a range of services in London including street outreach services helping people sleeping rough escape homelessness, a variety of hostels and supported housing projects, and schemes which prevent homelessness and help people develop new skills, re-engage with family and friends, and get back into work.

Thames Reach has been campaigning for over a decade to raise taxation on the dangerous high-strength ciders and super-strength beers – all the major studies on alcohol indicate the price is one of the key factors in influencing what people drink – and have also called on the drinks industry to behave more responsibly.

Successes include the consumption of 9% super-strength beer falling by a quarter in the UK, after we successfully lobbied the Government to create a higher band of duty in 2011, while the drinks manufacturer Heineken removed all of its high-strength cider from sale in the UK after visiting one of our hostels.

See thamesreach.org.uk For further details, contact Thames Reach communications manager, Mike Nicholas, on mike.nicholas@thamesreach.org.uk.

 

 

Kettil Bruun Society 43rd Annual Alcohol Symposium | Sheffield 5-9th June, 2017

The 43rd annual symposium of the Kettil Bruun Society is hosted by the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at the University of Sheffield. The symposium will be held in the Inox Dine area of the Student’s Union building.

For information about the Kettil Bruun Society, the Symposium, and to register, submit abstracts and book social tours, please click here.

To go straight to registration, please click here.

The conference is generously supported by the Insitute for Alcohol Studies, Alcohol Research UK, and the Society for the Study of Addiction.

The Kettil Bruun Society (KBS):

The principal aims of the Kettil Bruun Society (KBS) are to investigate social, epidemiological and cross-cultural research on alcohol use, to promote the exchange of scientific knowledge and experiences among researchers from various disciplines and to encourage international collaboration. The comparison of social and epidemiological developments found in different countries makes it possible to disentangle major trends from underlying patterns of alcohol use. This is particularly useful for the development of effective strategies to regulate alcohol use – an aspect which is of great interest to many countries.

The Symposium:

The primary purpose of the symposium is to provide a forum for researchers involved in studies on alcohol to exchange ideas about their ongoing research. The scope of the symposium includes studies of determinants and consequences of drinking, drinking culture and drinking patterns, social and institutional responses to drinking related harms, prevention and care. Empirical research, theoretical papers and reviews of the literature are welcome. Social and epidemiological studies have to be interpreted in a broad context as they include research in a variety of disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, criminology, economics, history and other sciences. Papers on other forms of substance use such as tobacco and drugs are also accepted, particularly papers considering the way they relate to alcohol use.

The symposium focuses on the discussion of papers that are pre-circulated electronically on this website. The author introduces the paper in a 10-minute segment, followed by prepared comments from a discussant and general audience participation. Any person submitting a paper may be asked to be a discussant or chair of a session.

Abstracts:

Please submit an abstract by 20 January 2017. The word limit for the abstract is 250 words and you should also include a conflict of interest statement and a maximum of three keywords (these are not included in the word count). For reports of empirical research, the abstract should be structured into sections: introduction, methods, results and conclusion.

All abstracts must include a conflict of interest statement. This should identify any author who has a relationship (financial or otherwise) which could be viewed as presenting a potential conflict of interest and give a full disclosure of this relationship.  If there are no conflicts of interest to report, please write ‘None’.

If you know in advance that you will only be able to attend the conference on certain days then please use the option in the submission form to indicate this and we will try to accommodate you when scheduling sessions.

 

UKCTAS welcome today’s ruling to introduce a minimum unit price in Scotland!

Plans to set a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland have been backed by the Scottish courts.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled against a challenge by the Scotch whisky industry, who claimed the plans were a breach of European Law. The ruling now paves the way for the Scottish government to implement its policy, passed by MSPs in 2012.

Under the plans, a price of 50p per unit of alcohol would be set, taking a bottle of spirits to at least £14. The Scottish government, health professionals, police, alcohol charities and some members of the drinks industry believe minimum pricing would help address Scotland’s “unhealthy relationship with drink”.

Sir Ian Gilmore responding to the ruling made today in the Scottish courts in relation to minimum unit pricing in Scotland:

“We welcome this court ruling, and hope to see minimum unit pricing speedily implemented in Scotland. Now is the time to act, even if the global alcohol producers, prioritising commercial interests over Scotland’s health, try to delay further by another appeal.

Now is also the time for England and Wales to follow suit and introduce MUP. The UK government committed to introducing MUP in 2012, and the public support the measure. Government-commissioned research estimates that in the first year following the implementation of MUP in England, there would be nearly 140 fewer crimes per day.

MUP leaves pub prices untouched, and targets the cheap alcohol which is preferentially consumed by children and dependent drinkers. Recent AHA research has found that alcohol is being sold for as little as 16p per unit, with 3 litre bottles of white cider, which contain the same amount of alcohol as 22 shots of vodka, available for just £3.49.

MUP would also be of greatest benefit to those on low income, with 8 out of 10 lives saved coming from the lowest income groups, and greater harm reductions felt by these groups. The government has spoken of its commitment to even out life chances, and MUP would go a long way in furthering this agenda.”

Dr John Holmes from the University of Sheffield said:

“The policy would mainly affect harmful drinkers, and it is the low income harmful drinkers—who purchase more alcohol below the minimum unit price threshold than any other group—who would be most affected. Policy makers need to balance larger reductions in consumption by harmful drinkers on a low income against the large health gains that could be experienced in this group from reductions in alcohol-related illness and death.”

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Modelling by the University of Sheffield estimates that a 50p MUP in Scotland would have the following effects after one year:

· 60 fewer deaths

· 1,300 fewer hospital admissions

· 3,500 fewer crimes

According to the modelling, the health gains will continue to increase over 20 years. At this time, in Scotland there would be an estimated:

· 120 fewer deaths due to alcohol each year

· 2,000 fewer hospital admissions due to alcohol each year

Work commissioned by the Government from the University of Sheffield revealed that 1 year after introducing an MUP in England there would be:

· 50,700 fewer crimes

· 376,600 fewer days absent from work

· 192 fewer deaths

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Professor Petra Meier, Director of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, and another author of the study, added:

“Our study finds no evidence to support the concerns highlighted by Government and the alcohol industry that minimum unit pricing would penalise responsible drinkers on low incomes. Instead, minimum unit pricing is a policy that is targeted at those who consume large quantities of cheap alcohol.

“By significantly lowering rates of ill health and premature deaths in this group, it is likely to contribute to the reduction of health inequalities.”

Minimum pricing for alcohol effectively targets high risk drinkers, with negligible effects on moderate drinkers with low incomes – Research report from the University of Sheffield.

Press summary of the Opinion of the Court in the reclaiming motion by the Scotch Whisky Association and others against the Lord Advocate and the Advocate General for Scotland

 

Cheap alcohol: the price we pay and the road to Minimum Unit Pricing!

It has been five years since alcohol partners from across the UK carried out their last comprehensive price survey. A lot has happened in that time. The Coalition Government committed to introduce a minimum unit price (MUP) to tackle the harm caused by the cheapest alcohol. Then, with encouragement from sections of the alcohol industry, they decided to postpone its introduction until the outcome of a legal challenge to minimum unit pricing in Scotland had been resolved. The alcohol duty escalator – which increased duty by 2% above inflation – was scrapped. Wider duty rates were cut. And alcohol harm continued to rise.

Four member organisations of the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) – the Institute of Alcohol Studies; Alcohol Focus Scotland; Balance, the North East Alcohol Office; and Healthier Futures – decided to check how those changes had affected the price of alcohol that is available in communities across England and Scotland.

As part of the survey, the partners visited a range of off-sales premises looking for the nation’s cheapest booze. Almost 500 products were examined and the conclusion is clear – alcohol continues to be sold at pocket money prices in supermarkets and off-licences across the UK.

Chairman of the AHA and former president of the Royal College of Physicians, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, said:

“In spite of a government commitment to tackle cheap, high-strength alcohol, these products are still available at pocket money prices. Harmful drinkers and children are still choosing the cheapest products – predominantly white cider and cheap vodka.

We need to make excessively cheap alcohol less affordable through the tax system, including an increase in cider duty. It’s not right that high strength white cider is taxed at a third of the rate for strong beer. 

In addition, we need minimum unit pricing. This would target the cheap, high strength products drunk by harmful drinkers whilst barely affecting moderate drinkers, and it would leave pub prices untouched.”

Each year, there are almost 23,000 deaths and more than 1 million hospital admissions related to alcohol in England.

More than two-thirds of alcohol sold in the UK is purchased in supermarkets and off-licences.

Headline Findings

  • Alcohol continues to be sold at pocket money prices, with white cider dominating the market for cheap, high-strength drinks.
  • High-strength white cider products, which are predominantly drunk by dependent and underage drinkers, are sold for as little as 16p per unit of alcohol.
  • For the cost of a standard off-peak cinema ticket you can buy seven and a half litres of 7.5% ABV white cider, containing as much alcohol as 53 shots of vodka.
  • Recent cuts in alcohol taxes allow shops and supermarkets to sell alcohol at pocket money prices but have done little to benefit pubs and their customers.
  • High-strength white cider is taxed at the lowest rate of all alcohol products. A can of 7.5% ABV white cider attracts less than one-third of the duty on a can of beer that is the same strength.

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Recommendations

The Government needs to:

  1. Increase duty on high-strength cider
  2. Reinstate the alcohol duty escalator
  3. Upon leaving the EU, tax all alcoholic drinks categories in proportion to strength
  4. Implement a minimum unit price for all alcoholic drinks.

Minimum unit pricing and tax – dispelling the myths

A minimum unit price would only target the highest strength drinks that cause the most harm. There are many myths surrounding minimum unit pricing, which the alcohol industry uses to dissuade people from supporting it. We have included here just a few of those myths and our responses.

Myth: An MUP would affect moderate drinkers too.
Moderate drinkers would experience very little impact from minimum unit pricing, which makes it one of the most effective measures, as it only targets the most harmful drinks of the kind deliberately sought out in this survey. The price of a pint of beer in a pub, for example, would not be affected by minimum unit pricing.
Myth: Taxation would be more effective than an MUP.
Recent research from the University of Sheffield found that, to achieve the same level of impact as an MUP of 50p, a 28% increase in all alcohol duty would be needed, which is outside the realms of possibility when it comes to what the Government will do. Everyone would be affected by these measures, whereas minimum unit pricing only targets the cheapest, strongest drinks.
Myth: Tax and minimum unit pricing cannot be used together.
Increasing duty and introducing an MUP are often presented as alternative solutions, when they can in fact be used to complement each other. Minimum unit pricing is targeted at the cheapest alcohol that is consumed by the most harmful drinkers but there are limits to its impact on wider population alcohol consumption and health, which increases to duty overall would help to tackle.

Tax rises and tougher rules on alcohol promotions work well,
but they will always work better when combined with minimum unit pricing.

Read the full report here.