Reducing harm caused by alcohol


The Alcohol Framework 2018 Preventing Harm

The Scottish Government published their new Alcohol Framework 2018: - Preventing Harm next steps on changing our relationship with alcohol, on the 20 November 2018. Joe Fitzpatrick, Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing unveiled the new framework at the 8th European Alcohol Policy Conference in Edinburgh.

We were pleased to see commitments on marketing and labelling as well as the pledge to review the current minimum unit price of 50 pence.

In 2017, Alcohol Focus Scotland, along with our partners SHAAP, SFAD and BMA Scotland, made recommendations to the Scottish Government encouraging action to reduce the exposure of children to alcohol advertising and sponsorship. There is strong support from the Scottish public to limit marketing of alcohol products and the evidence is clear that exposure to marketing has links with increased consumption among our children and young people.  

It is encouraging that the Minister has spoken of the ‘compelling evidence’ of the need to protect children from alcohol marketing and the Framework includes a commitment to consult on alcohol marketing.  Mention is made of marketing in public spaces, sport sponsorship and online and digital channels. The Scottish Government have also pledged to press the UK Government to protect children and young people by restricting alcohol marketing on television to after the 9pm watershed, and in cinemas.  We believe these are positive steps towards protecting the vulnerable and challenging alcohol’s prominent role in our society.

The Framework includes a welcome commitment to improving alcohol labelling. It is completely unacceptable that more information is required on a pint of milk than a bottle of wine. The Scottish Government have said that they will be prepared to consider pursuing a mandatory approach in Scotland if industry fails to include CMO guidelines, and other health information, on products by the UK deadline of September 2019.  A review of alcohol labels undertaken in August this year showed less than 10% of labels contained the CMO guidelines which came into force in January 2016.   

AFS is also pleased to see a commitment to review the 50 pence minimum unit price after we raised the point in our consultation submission in January this year. We highlighted that although the benefits will still be significant, the probable effectiveness of a 50p minimum unit price will have declined over the five years or so since the policy became legislation, and we sought a commitment of a review to ensure that the benefits of this life-saving policy are fully optimised.

In Scotland we have seen up close the alcohol industry’s determination to derail and delay the implementation of life-saving minimum unit pricing legislation.  We believe that organisations who put their profits over people’s health should have no part in shaping alcohol policy or in providing health advice.  We are encouraged to see that the Scottish Government have included within the framework the commitment that they will not work with industry on “health policy development, on health messaging campaigns or on provision of education in schools and beyond the school setting.”  This is a clear and principled stance which we hope others will follow.

One area of the Framework where we’d like to see stronger action is in addressing how widely available alcohol is. Alcohol death rates and hospitalisations are twice as high in areas with the highest availability. There is real potential for our licensing system do more to protect our most vulnerable communities who are suffering the greatest harm by controlling where and when alcohol is sold. The Framework includes a commitment to keep the system under review which is very welcome, and we will continue to monitor progress.

Read our response to the Alcohol Framework 2018 from Alison Douglas, chief executive at Alcohol Focus Scotland.

You can see the full Framework report here.