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!

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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.

 

Are recent attempts to quit smoking associated with reduced drinking in England? | Research report

 

This study sought to address the following research questions:

  • What is the association among smokers in England between a recent attempt to quit smoking and alcohol consumption?
  • What is the association among smokers with higher risk alcohol consumption in England between a recent attempt to stop smoking and a current attempt to cut down on their drinking?

The researchers looked at the association among smokers in England between a recent attempt to quit smoking and alcohol consumption. They identified smokers as light or heavy drinkers (light was indicated with an Audit-C score below 5 and heavy was indicated with an Audit-C score greater than 5) and analysed their recent attempt to stop smoking (identified by those who had attempted to quit in the last week with those who had not) and a current attempt to cut down on their drinking.

This was an observational study which means that it cannot demonstrate cause and effect. It may be that smokers choose to restrict their alcohol consumption when attempting to quit smoking to reduce the chance of relapse. Alternatively, it could be that people who drink less are more likely to quit smoking. If this is the case, smokers with higher alcohol consumption may need further encouragement to quit smoking.

Jamie Brown said “We can’t yet determine the direction of causality. Further research is needed to disentangle whether attempts to quit smoking precede attempts to restrict alcohol consumption or vice versa. We’d also need to rule out other factors which make both more likely. Such as the diagnosis of a health problem causing attempts to cut down on both drinking and smoking.”

This study is part of an ongoing Smoking Toolkit Study and Alcohol Toolkit Study, designed to provide tracking information about smoking, alcohol consumption and related behaviors in England. Each month a new sample of approximately 1700 adults aged 16 and over complete a face-to-face computer assisted survey. The Smoking Toolkit Study and the Alcohol Toolkit Study are primarily funded by Cancer Research UK and the NIHR School for Public Health Research respectively.

Background

Alcohol consumption during attempts at smoking cessation can provoke relapse and so smokers are often advised to restrict their alcohol consumption during this time. This study assessed at a population-level whether smokers having recently initiated an attempt to stop smoking are more likely than other smokers to report i) lower alcohol consumption and ii) trying to reduce their alcohol consumption.

Method

Cross-sectional household surveys of 6287 last-year smokers who also completed the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test consumption questionnaire (AUDIT-C). Respondents who reported attempting to quit smoking in the last week were compared with those who did not. Those with AUDIT-C≥5 were also asked if they were currently trying to reduce the amount of alcohol they consume.

Results

After adjustment for socio-demographic characteristics and current smoking status, smokers who reported a quit attempt within the last week had lower AUDIT-C scores compared with those who did not report an attempt in the last week (βadj = −0.56, 95 % CI = −1.08 to −0.04) and were less likely to be classified as higher risk (AUDIT-C≥5: ORadj  = 0.57, 95 % CI = 0.38 to 0.85). The lower AUDIT-C scores appeared to be a result of lower scores on the frequency of ‘binge’ drinking item (βadj  = −0.25, 95 % CI = −0.43 to −0.07), with those who reported a quit attempt within the last week compared with those who did not being less likely to binge drink at least weekly (ORadj = 0.54, 95 % CI = 0.29 to 0.999) and more likely to not binge drink at all (ORadj  = 1.70, 95 % CI = 1.16 to 2.49). Among smokers with higher risk consumption (AUDIT-C≥5), those who reported an attempt to stop smoking within the last week compared with those who did not were more likely to report trying to reduce their alcohol consumption (ORadj = 2.98, 95 % CI = 1.48 to 6.01).

Conclusion

Smokers who report starting a quit attempt in the last week also report lower alcohol consumption, including less frequent binge drinking, and appear more likely to report currently attempting to reduce their alcohol consumption compared with smokers who do not report a quit attempt in the last week.

Lead author Jamie Brown, from University College London, England, said:

“These results go against the commonly held view that people who stop smoking tend to drink more to compensate. It’s possible that they are heeding advice to try to avoid alcohol because of its link to relapse.”

   Who was involved?

Jamie Brown, Robert West, Emma Beard, Alan Brennan, Colin Drummond, Duncan Gillespie, Matthew Hickman, John Holmes, Eileen Kaner, Susan Michie.

BMC Public Health, 2016; 16 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-3223-6

Read the full report on BMC here!

 

 

Unravelling the alcohol harm paradox: a population-based study of social gradients across very heavy drinking thresholds | Research report

 

Who was involved?

Dan Lewer – Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Charing Cross Hospital

Petra Meier – ScHARR, University of Sheffield

Emma Beard – Department of Epidemiology & Public Health and Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London

Sadie Boniface – National Addications Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London

Eileen Kaner – Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University

Background to the research:

There is consistent evidence that individuals in higher socioeconomic status groups are more likely to report exceeding recommended drinking limits, but those in lower socioeconomic status groups experience more alcohol-related harm. This has been called the ‘alcohol harm paradox’. Such studies typically use standard cut-offs to define heavy drinking, which are exceeded by a large proportion of adults. Our study pools data from six years (2008–2013) of the population-based Health Survey for England to test whether the socioeconomic distribution of more extreme levels of drinking could help explain the paradox.

Methods used:

The study included 51,498 adults from a representative sample of the adult population of England for a cross-sectional analysis of associations between socioeconomic status and self-reported drinking. Heavy weekly drinking was measured at four thresholds, ranging from 112 g+/168 g + (alcohol for women/men, or 14/21 UK standard units) to 680 g+/880 g + (or 85/110 UK standard units) per week. Heavy episodic drinking was also measured at four thresholds, from 48 g+/64 g + (or 6/8 UK standard units) to 192 g+/256 g + (or 24/32 UK standard units) in one day. Socioeconomic status indicators were equivalised household income, education, occupation and neighbourhood deprivation.

Results of the study:

Lower socioeconomic status was associated with lower likelihoods of exceeding recommended limits for weekly and episodic drinking, and higher likelihoods of exceeding more extreme thresholds. For example, participants in routine or manual occupations had 0.65 (95 % CI 0.57–0.74) times the odds of exceeding the recommended weekly limit compared to those in ‘higher managerial’ occupations, and 2.15 (95 % CI 1.06–4.36) times the odds of exceeding the highest threshold. Similarly, participants in the lowest income quintile had 0.60 (95 % CI 0.52–0.69) times the odds of exceeding the recommended weekly limit when compared to the highest quintile, and 2.30 (95 % CI 1.28–4.13) times the odds of exceeding the highest threshold.

Conclusions

Low socioeconomic status groups are more likely to drink at extreme levels, which may partially explain the alcohol harm paradox. Policies that address alcohol-related health inequalities need to consider extreme drinking levels in some sub-groups that may be associated with multiple markers of deprivation. This will require a more disaggregated understanding of drinking practices.

Read the full report here.