Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Health charities call for action to save lives from Scotland's biggest killers

Leading health charities in Scotland are urging the Scottish Government to act on commitments to tackle the use of tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food and drink, claiming work has stalled during the pandemic.

Ten organisations have joined forces to campaign for action on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, liver disease and lung disease – which are responsible for more than half of all deaths in Scotland – around 40,000 every year.

British Heart Foundation Scotland’s analysis of National Records of Scotland statistics suggests that each year around 7,800 of these deaths could be prevented through public health interventions to reduce consumption of health harming products such as alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food.

But commitments by the Scottish Government on all three of these issues have been paused during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Today (Monday 6th September), as a global week of action on NCDs begins, a virtual event is being held in the Scottish Parliament, organised by the campaign group and attended by MSPs from all political parties, to call on the Scottish Government to take action now on its delayed commitments.

Alison Douglas from Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Health harming products, such as alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food and drinks are major contributors to death and ill health across Scotland. The Scottish Government has made welcome commitments to tackling the burden caused by these products, but these promises must now be fulfilled. Only last month, official figures from National Records of Scotland revealed deaths from alcohol in 2020 were at their highest level since 2008. We must act now to save and improve lives across the country and relieve pressure on our NHS.”

The charities have set out a series of recommendations which they believe should be in place by the end of the parliamentary year in June 2022.

These include

  • calls to bring forward a bill to ban multi-buy offers on junk food
  • to review and increase the minimum unit price for alcohol to at least 65p per unit
  • and consult on regulations on the domestic advertising of e-cigarettes

David McColgan, from BHF Scotland, said: “We must do more to help people across Scotland live longer, healthier lives. Non-communicable diseases do not just cause tens of thousands of deaths in Scotland each year, they also affect quality of life and contribute to health inequalities. People in our least deprived communities can expect to have around 20 years more healthy life than those in our most deprived.

“In this global week of action, we want our politicians to commit to bold action. We need to empower people by making the healthy choice, the easier choice. Whether that is increasing services that support people to improve their health or taking steps around the availability, marketing, pricing and promotion of tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food and drink. We must all work together to tackle Scotland’s biggest killers.”

Welcoming the report launched Mon 6 Sept, Sheila Duffy – Chief Executive of health charity ASH Scotland said:

“Today we are calling on the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government to take meaningful action to reduce the impacts of tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food and drink in Scotland. These health-harming products have been shown to hit our poorest communities the hardest, costing years of people's lives and undermining their health.

“In 2016 the Scottish Parliament passed legislation to restrict e-cigarette advertising; five years on that legislation has still not been put into practice. Most e-cigarette brands are now owned by tobacco companies, and limiting the promotion of e-cigarettes is an important step in reducing the uptake of recreational nicotine products, with young people especially at risk.

“If current trends continue Scotland is set to miss our target of a generation free from tobacco by at least sixteen years. Action is urgently needed to put us back on course.”

The 10 charities involved in the campaign are Alcohol Focus Scotland, Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland, Cancer Research UK, ASH Scotland, Obesity Action Scotland, SHAAP, Stroke Association and Diabetes Scotland.


6 September 2021