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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Over 200,000 children in England are living with Dependent Drinkers!

New figures released today reveal that over 200,000 children in England are living with dependent drinkers who could benefit from receiving specialist alcohol treatment.

The data from Public Health England estimates that there are 600,000 dependent drinkers who would benefit from treatment, yet only just over 100,000 are currently receiving the help they need.

These figures only cover adults who are most seriously dependent on alcohol. It is currently estimated that around 1.5 million adults in England and Wales have some form of alcohol dependence, and that there are 2.5 million children living with an adult drinking at risky levels.

The PHE data is released alongside a report from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) focused on improving the life chances and job prospects of the least well-off. The Department has said it will increase access to grant funding and introduce peer mentors for those in alcohol treatment to help them get back into work.

The report comes at a time when politicians are increasingly recognising the harm cheap alcohol is doing to the most vulnerable in society. The March budget included a consultation on the introduction of a new tax band designed to increase the price of strong white cider, a product which is predominantly consumed by children and heavy drinkers.

And earlier today a report published by the House of Lords Licensing Committee following an enquiry into the operation of the 2003 Licensing Act recognised the damage being done by cheap alcohol. The report calls for the introduction of a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol across the UK if it is introduced in Scotland and proves to be successful. Its introduction is being stalled by legal action being taken by sections of the alcohol industry. The report also calls for an end to multi-buy deals such as three for the price of two, a measure which has proved to be successful in Scotland.

Alcohol health experts welcomed the measures announced by the DWP today and the focus on the most vulnerable and lowest paid, pointing to studies which have shown that the least well off are around five times more likely to die from alcohol-related causes than those at the top of the income bracket.

Experts also called, however, for a wider, population-level approach to improving life and employment opportunities for dependent drinkers alongside greater support for individuals.

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

“We welcome the Government’s recognition that cheap alcohol is damaging some of the most vulnerable groups in society. The revelation that 200,000 children in England are living with adults in need of specialist help is deeply worrying. We need to make sure people get the support they need once they have a problem with alcohol, for their own sakes and for the sake of their children. But people don’t set out to become dependent drinkers and we need to stop more people from reaching that stage.

“For the greatest impact, the measures announced today should be combined with
measures like minimum unit pricing of alcohol. Studies have shown that setting a minimum price for alcohol would reduce unemployment and bring substantial numbers of unemployed drinkers back into the workforce.

“The government is already taking steps to tackle alcohol dependence in this broader way, with the recent announcement that it will be consulting on increasing the tax on high- strength ciders, drinks which are known to be drunk by the most vulnerable and do disproportionate harm.

“Studies also indicate that MUP would help address health inequalities, with over 80 per cent of lives saved coming from the lowest income groups. At the same time, the measure would not increase the price of alcohol sold in pubs and clubs.”

The Public Health England figures can be found here.
The DWP report, entitled Improving Lives: helping workless families, is available here.


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