- Alcohol-specific deaths in Scotland increase
- Australian ministers agree to visible pregnancy warning
- Alcohol policy measures could reduce ambulance callouts
- 18.6% increase in deaths from alcohol in 2020
- Widespread support for calls to increase minimum unit price for alcohol to 65p
- Students as Change Agents
- Health charities call for action to save lives from Scotlands biggest killers
- Three quarters of Scots back new controls to help protect children from alcohol advertising
- More accurate estimates for the burden of Alcohol on the Ambulance Service: around 1 in 6 callouts in Scotland are alcohol related
- How can alcohol labels be improved to help people make informed consumption choices
- Health experts call for better alcohol labelling
- Young people and their views on alcohol marketing
- Lowest alcohol sales in Scotland for 26 years
- Minimum unit pricing has lasting impact study shows
- Euros renews call for action to protect children from alcohol sports sponsorship
- Current alcohol labelling of little relevance to young adult drinkers
- Governments should step up efforts to tackle harmful alcohol consumption
- Scottish public and leading health experts back changes to alcohol labelling
- AFS calls for 65p minimum unit price for alcohol
- How will the main parties prevent harm from alcohol?
- Alcohol labelling reform is way past its sell by date
- Alcohol policy priorities for the next parliament
- Young drinkers believe prominent health warnings on alcohol could boost risk awareness
- Alcohol and the Workplace Effective Interventions
- Alcohol sales and consumption in Scotland during the pandemic
- How can we prevent alcohol deaths?
- Alcohol Deaths and Minimum Unit Pricing
- Young Scots show support for restrictions on alcohol marketing
- YoungScot Health Panel report on alcohol marketing and harm
- New release of alcohol related hospital admissions
- Better alcohol labelling – A way to boost awareness of the risk between alcohol and cancer?
- Alcohol Deaths Prevention Support
- Almost half of Scots in favour of minimum unit pricing
- NICE Guidelines on FASD Surveillance or Support?
- Leading health charities call for action in Scotland
- Health experts campaign for better understanding of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
- Health experts call for alcohol labelling overhaul
- Survey shows Scots lockdown drinking rise caused by stress
- Alcohol Focus Scotland welcomes new WHO report on alcohol pricing
- Statistical analysis of off-trade alcohol sales in the year following MUP
- Alcohol Focus Scotland Review of statements of licensing policy 2018 to 2023
- We need to continue long-term focus on alcohol
- Scots report changing drinking patterns during coronavirus lockdown
- Time to Blow the Whistle on Alcohol Sport Sponsorship
- New evidence demonstrates that alcohol ads lead to youth drinking
- Alcohol sales fall in first year of MUP
- First study published into under 18 drinkers post MUP
- Commission on Alcohol Harm calls for evidence
- Two years on Are annual functions reports reaching their potential?
- We need to do more to protect our children and young people
- Scottish primary children call for action on alcohol
- New Alcohol Deaths Prevention Support Now Available from AFS
- Its time to tell us whats in our drinks
- A home for Rory
- Making a bad impression - blog post
- Alcohol sales and MUP
- Alcohol marketing and children debate in the Scottish Parliament
- Lowest alcohol sales in 25 years
- Research into fall in violence
- The Children's Parliament investigates an alcohol-free childhood
- Minimum unit pricing one year on
- More about sales data
- A family of resources it is all about prevention, education and resilience
- AFS publish Review of Licensing Board Annual Functions Reports 2017-2018
- Marketing unmasked dispelling the myths and taking a stand
- No place for alcohol marketing in sport
- Scotland publishes first UK guidelines for diagnosing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)
- The Alcohol Framework 2018 Preventing Harm
- Scotlands new drug and alcohol strategy launched
- AFS welcome new alcohol strategy
- Recent reporting on alcohol sales data
- Diageo is failing to provide latest guidelines on their products
- Drinks companies keeping consumers in dark about risky drinking
- Reducing alcohol consumption can address health inequalities
- Global first alcohol policy set to save hundreds of Scots' lives
- AFS welcomes minimum unit pricing for alcohol
- Truer picture of alcohol harm revealed
- Alcohol causes 3,700 deaths in Scotland every year
- Scotland's licensing system needs clearer direction
- Minimum pricing blog
- Minimum pricing gets green light
- Alcohol brands and young people
- Time for honest conversations about alcohol
- Q&A on alcohol marketing
- UK children anxious about parents' drinking
- 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
- Scottish Government urged to curb alcohol marketing
- Consumers have the right to know health risks
- Alcohol-free childhood is healthiest option
- SWA granted leave to appeal minimum pricing
- Scottish Greens call for action on alcohol marketing
- SWA will appeal to UK Supreme Court
- SWA urged to respect minimum pricing decision
- Minimum pricing can be implemented in Scotland
- AFS welcomes revised alcohol consumption guidelines
- Emergency services face shocking levels of alcohol abuse
- New toolkit to help children affected by family alcohol problems
- Alcohol campaigners unite to call for stronger protection from alcohol advertising to children
- No completely 'safe' level of drinking
- New alcohol guidelines published
- Minimum pricing - European court ruling
- Alcohol: a global concern
Consumers have the right to know health risks
With an estimated 1 in 6 Brits participating in Dry January, most of us know someone who decided to start 2017 alcohol-free.
Campaigns like Dry January are becoming more and more popular as a chance to examine our relationship with alcohol and rebalance after the excesses of Christmas. For some of us – me included – the reason for having a break from alcohol at this time of year is part of a healthier lifestyle. For others, it’s about saving money or proving to themselves and others that they have the willpower to succeed.
Although some of us may view the challenge as a one-off or go on a binge as a ‘reward’ for finishing, research findings actually suggest that very few people report increased alcohol consumption following a period of voluntary abstinence.
An independent evaluation of 2015’s Dry January by Public Health England showed that two thirds of participants said they had had a sustained drop in their drinking six months on. Half of participants said they lost weight and two thirds said they were sleeping better and had more energy.
Scotland’s problems with alcohol are well known but most of us don’t think the way we personally drink is a problem. But having a few beers after work or a few glasses of wine at home too often can slip into a habit that affects our wellbeing now and stores up problems for the future.
Benefits of drinking less
There are lots of benefits to drinking less, and even small changes can make a big difference. The short term paybacks include improved mood, better sleep, more energy and more time to make the most of evenings and weekends rather than suffering the fuzzy head and nausea of a hangover. There’s also our waistlines to think about. Alcohol is full of calories, with one large glass of wine containing up to 200 calories - the same as a sugar doughnut.
In the longer term, alcohol is linked with many health conditions including breast, bowel and oral cancers, heart disease, stroke, liver damage and depression. Drinking any amount of alcohol increases the risk of damage to health and that risk generally increases in line with how much is consumed.
The good news is that these health risks are low if we drink within the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines of 14 units a week, spread over three days or more during the week. Fourteen units is about a bottle and a half of wine, six pints of beer or 14 single measures of vodka. It’s a good idea to check the strength of your drink as brands can vary dramatically - one large glass of wine can contain 3 units of alcohol.
And watch your measure too since we’re more likely to pour larger measures at home. Since understanding of units is low – half of Scots don’t know how many units are in a pint of beer, measure of spirits or glass of wine – many of us under-estimate our alcohol intake so are inadvertently putting our health at risk.
The expert group involved in developing the Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk drinking guidelines recommended a mass media information campaign to raise awareness among the public and health professionals. It’s really disappointing that, more than a year on, nothing has been done by government to communicate and explain the guidelines.
Independent health advice needed
The government has a duty to inform us about the health risks associated with alcohol, particularly when it is so cheap, widely available and aggressively marketed. The millions of pounds producers spend on glamorous marketing campaigns which place alcohol at the centre of a successful life need to be offset with the truth – that alcohol is a toxic substance that can create dependence and causes serious health and social problems.
We’re certainly not going to hear about liver damage or cancer from manufacturers or retailers, whose weak messages reminding consumers to "drink responsibly" or "enjoy in moderation" fail to convey even basic public health information. The government and NHS should be taking the lead in sharing scientific evidence and providing independent health advice, not leaving it to the companies which profit from us drinking more.
Currently, EU legislation requires more consumer information to be printed on a pint of milk than on a bottle of vodka. This is unacceptable. Consumers have the right to know what they’re drinking and the risks associated with alcohol consumption. Manufacturers should be compelled to display prominent health warnings, along with information on ingredients, nutrition and calories on alcohol labels. Polls show 8 out of 10 Scots support alcohol health labelling.
Ultimately – assuming we are not harming anyone else – each of us needs to make up our own mind whether and how much we want to drink. What’s important is that the health risks are made clear and accessible so we can make a genuinely informed choice.
Chief Executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland