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.

New evidence finds standardised cigarette packaging may reduce the number of people who smoke as UK legislation bans the use of branding on all cigarette packets from May 2017.

A Cochrane Review published today finds standardised tobacco packaging may lead to a reduction in smoking prevalence and reduces the appeal of tobacco.

According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco use kills more people worldwide than any other preventable cause of death. Global health experts believe the best way to reduce tobacco use is by stopping people starting to use tobacco and encouraging and helping existing users to stop.

plain-packs-620-x-348-heroThe introduction of standardised (or ‘plain’) packaging was recommended by the World Health Organisation, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) guidelines. This recommendation was based on evidence around tobacco promotion in general and studies which examined the impact of changes in packaging on knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviour. Standardised tobacco packaging places restrictions on the appearance of tobacco packs so that there is a uniform colour (and in some cases shape) with no logos or branding apart from health warnings and other government-mandated information, and the brand name appears in a prescribed uniform font, colour and size.

From next month, UK legislation on standardised packaging for all tobacco packs comes into full effect.

Australia was the first country in the world to implement standardised packaging of tobacco products.  The laws, which took full effect there in December 2012, also required enlarged pictorial health warnings.

A team of Cochrane researchers from the UK and Canada have summarised results from studies that examine the impact of standardised packaging on tobacco attitudes and behaviour. They have today published their findings in the Cochrane Library.

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A randomised controlled trial of a complex intervention to reduce children’s exposure to secondhand smoke in the home.

Exposing children to secondhand tobacco smoke (SHS) causes significant harm and occurs predominantly through smoking by caregivers in the family home. Researchers from UKCTAS at the University of Nottingham trialed a complex intervention designed to reduce secondhand smoke exposure of children whose primary caregiver feels unable or unwilling to quit smoking.

This was an open-label, parallel, randomised controlled trial carried out in deprived communities around Nottingham City and County.

The trial worked with caregivers who live in Nottingham City and County in England who were at least 18 years old, the main caregiver of a child aged under 5 years living in their household, and reported that they were smoking tobacco inside their home.

The research compared a complex intervention that combined personalised feedback on home air quality, behavioural support and nicotine replacement therapy for temporary abstinence with usual care.

The primary outcome was change in air quality in the home, measured as average 16–24 hours levels of particulate matter of <2.5 µm diameter (PM2.5), between baseline and 12 weeks. Secondary outcomes included changes in maximum PM2.5, proportion of time PM2.5 exceeded WHO recommended levels of maximum exposure of 25 µg/mg3, child salivary cotinine, caregivers’ cigarette consumption, nicotine dependence, determination to stop smoking, quit attempts and quitting altogether during the intervention.

Geometric mean PM2.5 decreased significantly more (by 35.2%; 95% CI 12.7% to 51.9%) in intervention than in usual care households, as did the proportion of time PM2.5 exceeded 25 µg/mg3, child salivary cotinine concentrations, caregivers’ cigarette consumption in the home, nicotine dependence, determination to quit and likelihood of having made a quit attempt.

The team concluded that by reducing exposure to SHS in the homes of children who live with smokers unable or unwilling to quit, this intervention offers huge potential to reduce children’s’ tobacco-related harm.

Read the full research report in the BMJ here.

This trial was funded by the UK National Institute for Health Research.

To find more information about this trial and the Smoke Free Homes project click here.

Cigarette smoking increases coffee consumption: findings from a Mendelian randomisation analysis

Marcus Munafò and his colleagues at the University of Bristol, have looked into the smoking and drinking habits of about 250,000 people. They found that smoking makes you drink more caffeinated drinks, possibly by changing your metabolism so that you break down caffeine quicker, pushing you to drink more to get the same hit.

It’s impossible to do a randomised controlled trial (the most rigorous kind of scientific trial) when it comes to smoking, because it would be unethical to ask a randomly selected group of people to smoke. The next best thing is to study huge biobanks of health data. These biobanks contain information about people’s genes, diets and lifestyles.
coffee-cigarettes-smoking-400x400.jpgTo explore the relationship between smoking and caffeine, Munafo and his colleagues analysed data from biobanks in the UK, Norway and Denmark. They were particularly interested in people who had inherited a variant of a gene that has already been shown to increase cigarette smoking.

Chain drinking

The team found that people who had this gene variant also consumed more coffee – but only if they smoked. British people with the same variant also drank more tea, although their Danish and Norwegian counterparts didn’t. This is probably due to cultural differences, says Munafò. “People in Norway and Denmark don’t chain drink tea in the same way that people in the UK do,” he says.

The genetic variant seems to influence how much nicotine a person consumes. You can have zero, one or two copies – and each additional copy is linked to an increase in smoking of about one cigarette per day. Each copy also appears to increase coffee consumption by 0.15 cups per day.

“You could extrapolate from that and say that if you smoked 10 cigarettes per day more than the next person, you would be drinking the equivalent of about one and a half extra cups of coffee per day,” says Munafò. He is wary of doing so, though, because the amount of nicotine a person gets from a cigarette will depend on the type of cigarette and the way it is smoked.

The gene variant codes for a nicotine receptor, which is not known to directly interact with caffeine. This suggests that cigarette smoking increases caffeine consumption and not the other way around.

“The team have used a rather clever technique to establish causality, which normally you wouldn’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of doing with an epidemiological study,”

Robert West – University College London.

What’s the link?

There’s a chance that cigarette smoking and caffeine consumption are linked through habit – that smokers tend to pair the two. But Munafò thinks that the nicotine in cigarettes might also influence the way a person metabolises caffeine. “It’s possible that smokers metabolise caffeine more quickly,” he says. If that is the case, smokers might need to consume more caffeine to get the same effects that a non-smoker would experience.

It’s also possible that the apparent link between smoking and coffee drinking could be down to some unknown function of the genetic variant, says West. “It evolved for a purpose, and it wasn’t to smoke,” he says.

A relationship between smoking and coffee might make it harder for smokers to quit, says Munafò. If a smoker stops smoking, but continues to drink plenty of coffee, they might start to experience unpleasant side effects, such as jitteriness. This might be misinterpreted as a symptom of smoking withdrawal, says Munafò. His team plans to investigate this.

newscience
By Jessica Hamzelou

Journal reference: bioRxiv, DOI: 10.1101/107037

Report launch: New issues and age-old challenges: a review of young people’s relationship with tobacco | 27/02/17

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Join Prof Amanda Amos and Prof Marcus Munafo to discuss the current landscape, challenges and opportunities including a focus on young people, tobacco and mental health.

Please book your free please here>

The face of youth smoking in the UK is evolving.  Young people are growing up in a society radically disrupted by new technologies and societal norms, which are reshaping their perceptions of personal health, image, and values.

New issues and age-old challenges: a review of young people’s relationship with tobacco, brings together the available evidence on youth smoking and articulates a clear demand for action across the system.

Martin Dockrell from Public Health England will chair the panel session.

Full agenda is available here>

MAJOR NEW REPORT  – UK HOSPITALS FAIL TO MEET NATIONAL STANDARDS IN EITHER HELPING PATIENTS QUIT SMOKING OR PROVIDING ‘SMOKE-FREE ENVIRONMENTS’

 

According to a major new report launched today (7/12/16) by the British Thoracic Society (BTS), NHS hospitals across UK are falling ‘woefully short’ of national standards on helping patients to quit smoking and enforcing smoke-free premises.

Experts f1-mediumpresenting the findings at the British Thoracic Society (BTS) Winter Meeting, will state that many NHS hospitals are missing out on a ‘golden opportunity’ to provide what is often the most effective front-line treatment for smoking patients who are sick  –  support and medication to help them quit tobacco.

The BTS Report ‘Smoking cessation: policy and practice in NHS hospitals’ is
unique in its scope and size; reviewing the smoking cessation & smoke-free policies and practices of 146 hospitals across UK between April and May 2016 – including the analysis of 14,750 patient records.

The main findings of the report are as follows:

  • Over 7 in 10 (72%) hospital patients who smoked were not asked if they’d like to stop
  • Only 1 in 13 (7.7%) hospital patients who smoked were referred for hospital-based or community treatment for their tobacco addiction
  • Over 1 in 4 (27%) hospital patients were not even asked if they smoke
  • Only 1 in 10 hospitals completely enforce their fully smoke-free premises. Rates of enforcement were even lower for hospitals which provided areas where smoking was allowed. The report highlights the importance of a smoke-free NHS – to trigger and support quit smoking attempts for patients and reduce second hand smoke exposure for children, staff and the public
  • Provision of nicotine replacement therapies and other smoking cessation treatments were ‘poor’ in hospital pharmacy formularies
  • Only 26% of hospitals had an identified consultant ‘lead’ overseeing their smoke-free and smoking cessation plans
  • 50% of frontline healthcare staff in hospitals were not offered training in smoking cessation

In the study, 25% of hospital patients were recorded as being ‘current smokers’ – which is higher than rates in the general adult population (19%)   Other studies have shown that approximately 1.1 million smokers are admitted to NHS hospitals a year.

The Society is using the report findings to call for all hospitals to deliver NICE Guidelines in this area (PH48) and that national regulators such as the Care Quality Commission (CQC) hold Hospital Boards accountable for the delivery of smoke-free and smoking cessation hospital policies.

The report also highlights a number of key activities that all NHS hospitals should deliver to help more of their patients quit smoking:

  1. Offer a prescription for Nicotine Replacement Therapy to all patients who smoke to help them cope with their tobacco dependence whilst in hospital
  1. Refer all patients who smoke in hospital to specialised stop smoking support services to explore the option of quitting smoking. Patients can opt out if they like – but the NHS should try to offer the most effective treatment and support whatever the illness – and with many smoking-related conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), support and medication to help people quit smoking are the best front line treatments
  1. Employ an appropriately skilled senior clinician within the hospital to oversee, drive forward, and be accountable for the hospital’s smoking cessation service
  1. Employ smoking cessation practitioners in every hospital – this was recommended by NICE in 2013 but the report shows patchy delivery across the country
  1. Hospital Board involvement in delivering plans is key. Delivering smoke-free hospital grounds – as part of a wider smoking cessation policy – requires Hospital Boards to work together including the chief executive, director of human resources, director of facilities and the medical and nursing directors – in partnership with the ‘smoking cessation lead’ at the hospital

The Society is also encouraging more health professionals to become BTS ‘Stop Smoking Champions’ in their hospital. There are over 160 at present and they deliver a range of vital activities to champion stop smoking service provision.

For further information, contact stopsmokingchampions@brit-thoracic.org.uk or to see a video about the initiative go to: https://www.brit-thoracic.org.uk/standards-of-care/quality-improvement/smoking-cessation/bts-stop-smoking-champions/

Dr Sanjay Agrawal, Consultant Lung Specialist & Chair of the British Thoracic Society’s Tobacco Group, who led the audit said:

“Our report shows that many NHS hospitals are woefully failing to meet national guidance on delivering smoking cessation services and smoke-free premises. This is a dangerous situation that is costing the country dear in both health and economic terms. We must do better. Critically, hospitals are missing out on a golden opportunity to help supply often THE most effective treatment for illnesses that smokers are admitted with – support and treatment for their tobacco dependence.  If patients in other disease areas were not offered, by default, the most effective way to treat their condition – there would probably be an uproar. Nevertheless, this happens all too frequently with people with smoking-related illnesses. Many hospital boards need to sort out their leadership, plans and resources on this issue – so they can deliver some simple but life-changing steps: identify patients who smoke, ask them if they’d like to quit – and give effective treatment and support to help them stop.”

Dr Lisa Davies, Consultant Respiratory Physician at Aintree University Hospital and Chair of the British Thoracic Society Board, said:

“Being admitted to hospital should be a real window of opportunity for smokers to quit – given that smoking should be prohibited on the premises, tobacco use may be linked to their health condition, and expert stop smoking advice and therapies are potentially ‘on tap.’ This report shows, however, that we need to fund, plan and deliver smoking cessation work in hospitals far better – so we can fully deliver on this opportunity for our patients.

At a wider level, there is a real fight going on for the future of stop smoking support services in this country.  Many local authorities, facing overall budget reductions, have cut funding for community-based stop smoking services – meaning that people who need support may have nowhere to go.

The NHS must urgently work together, alongside local authorities, to plan and fund these vital services – to ensure no-one who needs treatment and support to stop smoking falls through the net.”

British Thoracic Society – UK hospitals fail to meet national standards in helping patients to quit smoking

British Thoracic Society, Smoking Cessation Audit Report:

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External news sources:

AOL – Hospitals ‘woefully failing’ to crack down on smoking

The Guardian – A third of children hospitalised with asthma ‘exposed to cigarette smoke’

Birmingham Mail – Number of patients forced to wait for hospital bed ‘rockets in five years’

NHE – All STPs urged to help patients quit smoking

The BMJ – NHS hospitals must help patients quit smoking, says British Thoracic Society