Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Leading health charities call for action in Scotland

Working with other charities in Scotland, we’re calling for all political parties to commit to take the actions that could save thousands of lives from preventable diseases.

During this Global Week for Action on Non-communicable diseases, a joint letter from ten of Scotland’s leading health charities calls for all political parties to commit to the measures necessary to tackle these conditions – including heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lung conditions – that cause around two thirds of all deaths in Scotland.

The letter, signed by Alcohol Focus Scotland Chief Executive Alison Douglas, was also signed by the heads of other health charities including British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, ASH Scotland, Obesity Action Scotland, SHAAP, Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, Stroke Association and Diabetes Scotland:

Heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lung disease and diabetes are responsible for around two thirds of all deaths in Scotland – around 39,000 every year - and are among the world’s biggest killers. And yet sadly deaths from these conditions are often preventable. The burden of these diseases on families and on our society cannot be underestimated.

This week, as a global campaign takes place raising awareness of the impact of these non-communicable diseases (NCDs), we have come together - representing ten of Scotland’s leading health charities - to call for action.

We believe many of these deaths and lost healthy years of life are preventable through addressing modifiable and societal risk factors. Official statistics estimate that each year around 14,000 deaths in Scotland could be prevented through public health interventions.

As a collective, we have set out a series of priorities to tackle three of the biggest risk factors that affect people today – tobacco use, alcohol consumption and unhealthy diets – to improve the health of everyone in Scotland.

Evidence shows the environment around us heavily influences whether we smoke, the amount of alcohol we drink and what we eat. The visibility of products on our high streets and the way they are marketed all contribute to Scotland having one of the lowest healthy life expectancies in Western Europe.

This is particularly true in our most deprived communities where levels of smoking, harmful alcohol use and overweight and obesity are often at their highest. Research shows us that this is in part due to the higher presence of outlets in these areas selling alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food and drink. We must act now to ensure that the healthy choice is an easy choice for everyone in Scotland.

Covid-19 has also provided a wake-up call on these issues. We are becoming aware of possible links between smoking, alcohol intake and obesity on the severity of Covid-19 infections, highlighting the need to take action now more than ever as we continue to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scotland has been a pioneer in public health. It was the first country in the UK to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces and the first in the world to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol.

In this week of awareness, we are calling on all political parties to place the prevention of Scotland’s biggest killers as a priority and to give a strong commitment, ahead of next year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections, to work with us to create a step change in the health of the nation.