- Last Christmas for heavily discounted alcohol
- Scotland's licensing system needs clearer direction
- Minimum pricing blog
- Minimum pricing gets green light
- Reflections on GAPC 2017
- Alcohol brands and young people
- Time for honest conversations about alcohol
- Q&A on alcohol marketing
- UK children anxious about parents' drinking
- Quarter of Scots drink above guidelines
- Alcohol producers failing to inform public
- Concern over alcohol-related deaths
- We need to make it easier for people to drink less
- Worrying rise in alcohol-related deaths
- Minimum pricing will save lives
- Pocket money prices for alcohol continue
- Scotland's alcohol problem laid bare
- Cheap alcohol is costing Scotland dear
- One drink a day can increase breast cancer risk
- Poverty linked to increased harm from alcohol
- What next for reducing alcohol harm in Scotland?
- Scotland must do more to turn tide of alcohol harm
- Concern as funding for alcohol services cut
- Budget: No change in alcohol duty
- Scottish Government urged to curb alcohol marketing
- Consumers have the right to know health risks
- Chancellor urged to tackle cheap, strong cider in Budget
- Online help for families affected by alcohol
- Alcohol-free childhood is healthiest option
- SWA granted leave to appeal minimum pricing
- Drink drive warning
- Scottish Greens call for action on alcohol marketing
- Scottish Government receives European alcohol award
- SWA will appeal to UK Supreme Court
- Half of alcohol being sold under 50p per unit
- SWA urged to respect minimum pricing decision
- Alcohol and mental health are closely linked
- Minimum pricing can be implemented in Scotland
- Alcohol sold at pocket money prices
- 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
- Alcohol: a global concern
Scotland's alcohol strategy - what next?
As the First Minister told participants at the recent Global Alcohol Policy Conference (GAPC) in Edinburgh, Scotland certainly isn’t unique in having a problem with alcohol. Unfortunately we are unusual in the severity and extent of that problem.
We are awash with alcohol, drinking around a fifth more than our English and Welsh neighbours, and we all know someone whose health and family life has been damaged as a result.
At the conference, experts from around the world were impressed by Scotland’s robust response to this wave of alcohol harm. They commended our commitment to evidence-based policies that help reduce consumption, like pricing, rather than weak measures which try to change individual behaviour, like education. Asking people to ‘drink responsibly’ simply doesn’t work when we are faced with a flood of alcohol that is cheap, readily available and endlessly promoted.
Our international colleagues were particularly impressed by the Scottish Government’s commitment to minimum unit pricing. Over 70% of alcohol in Scotland is now bought relatively cheaply from supermarkets and shops and drunk at home. The cheapest, strongest drinks like white ciders and own brand vodkas are most often consumed by people who are drinking harmfully. Once a 50p minimum unit price is introduced, these drinks will be more expensive and the benefits will be fewer people in hospital, more families staying together and less anti-social behaviour and crime.
Some good progress has been made in the six years since Scotland’s alcohol strategy was published. Scotland has banned irresponsible off-sales promotions which encouraged people to ‘bulk buy’ alcohol; lowered the drink drive limit to make our roads safer; and health professionals have delivered over 300,000 brief interventions to at-risk drinkers. These are all positive steps and they are having some impact, with a 9% fall in consumption since 2009, and alcohol-related deaths decreasing by more than a third since they peaked in 2003.
Despite these encouraging signs, alcohol-related deaths have risen again in each of the last two years, with 1,152 Scots dying because of alcohol last year, and the downward trend in sales has now stalled. One of the reasons for this is that alcohol has become more affordable following the recession. This highlights the importance of price in influencing how much we drink.
It’s clear that addressing low cost alcohol is essential, but what else should we doing?
Steps must be taken to restrict alcohol marketing, particularly to protect children who are being targeted as the next generation of drinkers. Evidence has been growing about the effect of alcohol advertising on children, making them more likely to start drinking earlier and to drink greater quantities. We also know that children see more adverts than ever. Our children have the right to play, learn and socialise in places that are free from commercial pressure to drink alcohol but weak regulatory systems are failing to protect them. Broadcast advertising is reserved to the UK government, and we need to put pressure on Westminster to tackle this, but there are other steps we can take here in Scotland.
It should not be acceptable that if you take your 12-year-old to see a film, like Spectre (certificate 12A), they are likely to see alcohol adverts. One simple action would be to only allow cinema adverts before certificate 18 films where the entire audience should be over 18.
Scotland could also phase out alcohol sponsorship in sport. It’s disappointing that the Scottish Football Association recently signed a deal with Tennent’s. Our national sports bodies should be inspiring people to lead healthy and positive lifestyles, not promoting a product with such high health and societal costs.
Similarly, we should be able to ensure the places we live in encourage good health rather than being saturated by alcohol. For example, decisions by our local licensing boards shape our high streets and communities yet few of us have a say in whether an alcohol licence should be granted for another supermarket or a pub allowed to stay open longer. The objectives of Scotland’s licensing law include protecting and improving public health, and preventing crime and disorder. To meet these important objectives, licensing boards must become more accessible, accountable and responsive to the communities they serve.
As the new head of Alcohol Focus Scotland I look forward to working with all those who want to get the right policies in place to prevent alcohol damaging individuals, families, communities and our economy. I am optimistic that we can turn the tide towards a healthier, safer Scotland for everyone.
Alison Douglas, Chief Executive