- Alcohol-specific deaths in Scotland increase
- Students as Change Agents
- Health charities call for action to save lives from Scotlands biggest killers
- Australian ministers agree to visible pregnancy warning
- 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
No completely 'safe' level of drinking
The UK Chief Medical Officers have just published updated alcohol consumption guidelines, following a two year, expert review of the scientific evidence.
Their guidance makes it clear for the first time that there is no “safe” level of alcohol consumption. Any level of drinking raises the risk of developing a range of cancers including breast, bowel and mouth cancer. Although we have known that alcohol is a carcinogen (cancer causing substance) since the 1980s, the full extent of the link was not recognised in the previous recommended limits which were set out in 1995.
There is also now no justification for recommending drinking on health grounds as previous evidence is likely to have over-estimated the protective effects of alcohol for the heart.
To keep health risks to a low level, men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. Fourteen units is the equivalent of 6 pints of beer, a bottle and a half of wine, or half a bottle of spirits. Drinking should be spread over three days or more during the week to minimise the risk of accidents and injuries associated with heavy drinking sessions, and having several alcohol-free days each week is a good way to cut down.
Those of us concerned about alcohol and public health have welcomed the new guidelines and in particular that attention has been drawn to alcohol-related cancer. Alcohol is responsible for around 12,500 cancer cases a year in the UK, yet only around half of us are aware of the link.
However, the reaction from some quarters says a lot about our skewed relationship with alcohol. The revised guidance has been called “an assault on freedom”, “hyperbolic and puritan”, and “nanny state”. Just because we don’t want to hear that something we enjoy carries health risks doesn’t alter the scientific evidence - there is no completely safe level of alcohol consumption. Imagine the public outrage if the government failed to inform people that a product which is cheap, widely available and constantly promoted also causes cancer, liver damage and cardiovascular disease.
Perhaps this response demonstrates just how normal drinking to excess has become in our society. The health damage is under-estimated or under-played because drinking is so socially acceptable. Alcohol is positioned as an everyday product to be bought and consumed anytime, anywhere. Its toxic, carcinogenic properties are overlooked.
Ultimately – assuming we are not harming anyone else – each of us needs to make up our own minds whether and how much we want to drink. What’s important is that the health risks are clear so we can make an informed choice about the level of risk we are prepared to accept.
Health warnings needed
In order that we can genuinely make an informed choice, the expert group recommended a mass media information campaign. Crucially they also recommended that health warnings should be on all alcohol labels, advertising and sponsorship. This is long overdue. Existing alcohol labels don’t even provide any information about ingredients, never mind warn of the health risks associated with drinking. While some manufacturers have pledged to include more information on product labels, this varies widely and is entirely voluntary.
Of course alcohol manufacturers resist compulsory labelling, but they are out of step with the public on this issue. A recent opinion poll showed 93% of Scots agree it is important to know how alcohol can affect health, and 87% support better alcohol labelling. The government must recognise that the public want to be better informed and introduce compulsory health warnings – this is a consumer rights issue as well as a public health issue.
The reality is that far too many of us are drinking at levels that endanger our health. But the new guidance also means we need to think more broadly about whether our national approach to reducing alcohol consumption is sufficient to the task. The Scottish Government has committed to refreshing its alcohol strategy this year and will want to consider all the options.
The Chief Medical Officers would like to know whether you think their recommendations are clear and easy to understand. You can respond online before 1 April.
Alison Douglas, Chief Executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland