- Scotland has so much to gain from reducing how much we drink
- AFS welcomes revised alcohol consumption guidelines
- Emergency services face shocking levels of alcohol abuse
- Every child has the right to grow up safe from alcohol harm
- Public health must prevail over big business
- New toolkit to help children affected by family alcohol problems
- Price check reveals cheap cost of strong alcohol
- Sales increase underlines need for minimum pricing
- Time to kick alcohol out of sport
- Alcohol linked with stomach cancer
- AFS calls for compulsory health warnings on alcoholic drinks
- Are supermarkets 'responsible retailers' when it comes to alcohol?
- Scottish health charities call for excise duty rise to tackle cheap alcohol
- Alcohol campaigners unite to call for stronger protection from alcohol advertising to children
- New resource for people concerned about alcohol in their community
- Minimum pricing decision delayed until summer
- No completely 'safe' level of drinking
- New alcohol guidelines published
- Minimum pricing - European court ruling
- Alcohol fuels ambulance assaults
- 82% of Scots agree drink driving is unacceptable
- Scotland's alcohol strategy - what next?
- Scotland leads way in evidence-based alcohol policy
- New report reveals impact of alcohol on emergency services
- AFS appoints new chief executive
- Alcohol: a global concern
- Campaigners gather in Edinburgh for global alcohol conference
- Alcohol and pregnancy don't mix
- European Court minimum pricing opinion
- Call for minimum pricing as alcohol deaths rise
- How much are we really drinking?
- Dr Evelyn Gillan
- Majority of Brits harmed by other people's drinking
- Interactive map of alcohol and tobacco outlets
- Help consumers make an informed choice about alcohol
- Alcohol debate must continue
- Alcohol sponsorship in Formula 1: a dangerous cocktail
- Minimum pricing case to be heard in Europe
Alcohol: a global concern
This week, hundreds of alcohol campaigners, researchers, health professionals and policymakers from all over the world will gather in Edinburgh for the Global Alcohol Policy Conference.
Against the backdrop of high levels of alcohol harm around the world, the conference offers a unique opportunity to share knowledge and inspire each other to advocate for the policies that will reduce the significant harm that alcohol causes in our countries. In selecting Scotland to host the event, the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance recognised the leadership and courage shown by Scotland in pursuing minimum unit pricing as an effective policy to tackle alcohol harm.
Across the world, alcohol causes so much damage to people’s health, to the lives of their families, and to the communities we live in. Alcohol use is the world’s 5th leading risk factor for disease, injury and disability. In eastern Europe, most of Latin America and southern sub-Saharan Africa, it is the leading cause.
Worldwide, alcohol causes around 3.3 million deaths annually.
Drinking levels and patterns vary considerably between countries and regions of the world. But in most regions of the world, rising alcohol consumption is a growing threat. Generally, the greater the economic wealth of a country, the more alcohol is consumed and the smaller the number of abstainers. High-income countries have the highest alcohol consumption per person and the highest prevalence of binge drinking. Europe is home to 15% of the world’s population but drinks more than a quarter of the total recorded alcohol consumed worldwide. The riskiest patterns of consumption are reported in eastern Europe and in Russia, a quarter of men die before the age of 55, with alcohol the major cause.
In contrast, almost half of the global adult population has never consumed alcohol. However, even in countries with high levels of non-drinkers, consumption among those who do drink can be very high. For example, 70% of Indians never drink alcohol, but those who do drink consume twice as much as UK drinkers.
Countries like China and India have seen a rapid shift in patterns and trends of alcohol use in recent years, with more young people and women starting to drink. The spread of harmful drinking practices worldwide has come about with the expansion of the global alcohol trade. Research shows that where multinational producers of unhealthy commodities are most active, there is more consumption of health-damaging products like alcohol.
Asia, Africa and Latin America are targeted by global alcohol producers because of their young and growing populations, along with increasing disposable incomes. In these newer markets, the industry pursues a two-fold strategy of making some drinks cheap enough for all but the poorest to afford, whilst also pushing its premium brands as status symbols for the emerging middle class.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that marketing practices which are viewed as unacceptable in Europe are used widely in Africa by alcohol companies. For example, advertising commonly makes a connection between alcohol and wealth, and cartoons are used to market their products on African television. Unfortunately many developing countries lack the control strategies and treatment services to deal with the inevitable harms caused by rising consumption. As a result, the health and social consequences of drinking are most severe for those with the least resources.
The good news is that the world is waking up to the problem of increasing alcohol use and the need to implement effective controls. In 2010, the World Health Assembly endorsed the first Global Strategy on Alcohol. The strategy identifies ten priority areas for action, with the most effective interventions being action on pricing, availability and marketing.
Alcohol-related death and disease is not inevitable. We know what works best to prevent it. However, successful implementation of the global strategy requires sustained commitment and support from policy makers, health professionals and civil society.
We look forward to welcoming everyone taking part in the Global Alcohol Policy Conference in Edinburgh. We hope that it can be a catalyst for concerted action to counter the significant health and social problems that alcohol causes around the world.
Barbara O’Donnell, Acting Chief Executive