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Welcome to SHAAP’s (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems) weekly media monitoring service.

04 February 2016
 

#MUPsaveslives

 

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This briefing aims to provide a ‘snap shot’ of latest news on alcohol and health policy. The inclusion of an article in the briefing should not imply that SHAAP approves or condones the content.

SHAAP provides a coordinated, coherent and authoritative medical and clinical voice on the need to reduce the impact of alcohol related harm on the health and wellbeing of the people in Scotland. SHAAP was set up by the Scottish Medical Royal Colleges, through their Scottish Intercollegiate Group (SIGA) and is governed by an Executive Committee made up of members of the Royal Colleges.

Scottish Court to hear minimum pricing arguments in June

A DATE for Scottish judges to consider a European Court decision on the Scottish Government’s plan to implement minimum pricing on alcohol has been set.

The European Court of Justice said last month it could be in breach of EU trade rules if there is no other mechanism to achieve the same public health benefits and that it is for the domestic courts to determine.

The case prompted by the Scotch Whisky Association’s legal challenge will now be considered on June 7 and 8 this year.

Lawyers for the Scottish Government and the SWA are expected to appear and argue their cases before the judges.

The SWA challenged the policy which would impose a 50p per unit minimum price arguing it restricts trade.

Health campaigners who are in favour of the policy said they are confident it will be passed.

Eric Carlin, Director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), said: “Today the Scotch Whisky Association continued its efforts to prevent the implementation of minimum unit pricing in Scotland. This comes the day after the SWA launched a campaign to reduce alcohol duty on spirits.

“SWA’s action suggests that they put profit above health. They are seeking to obstruct both the mechanisms that would reduce harm by increasing the price of alcohol: minimum unit price and taxation. This despite the Scottish Parliament and the courts in both Scotland and Europe accepting the clear link between price, consumption and harm.”

Source: Evening Times, 28th January
 

Calls for action as Scotland records higest rate of alcohol deaths in the UK

Scotland had the worst rate for alcohol-related deaths in any part of the UK, according to figures recorded over the past 20 years.

Alcohol death rates for men in Scotland have risen dramatically, according to the figures published by the Office for National Statistics. In Scotland they stood at 31.2 per 100,000 of the population, compared to 18.1 per 100,000 in England, 20.3 in Northern Ireland and 19.9 for Wales.

The latest findings from 2014 led to renewed calls for the introduction of the Scottish Government’s plan for a minimum alcohol price, aimed at tackling alcohol abuse.

Meanwhile, the data showed that the rate was also higher among women in Scotland than in the rest of the UK, with 13.3 drink-related deaths per 100,000 females north of the Border.

The level of female deaths was 9.1 per 100,000 for England, 8.5 for Northern Ireland and 10.4 for Wales.

Scotland also had the highest alcohol-related death rates during the period 1994 to 2014, as well as the steepest increase in rates between 1994 and the 2000s.

The figure rose sharply from 23.3 per 100,000 to 31.2 per 100,000 among men during that time. For women alcohol related deaths went from 11 per 100,000 to 13.3 per 100,000 during the same period.

In 1994 there were 482 alcohol-related deaths of men in Scotland, although this increased to 784 in 2014. For women the number of lives lost during the same period went from 259 to 368.

There were 8,697 alcohol-related deaths registered in the UK in 2014, a figure that equates to 14.3 deaths for every 100,000 people in the UK.

Plans for a minimum unit price of 50p for alcohol have been passed by the Scottish Parliament, but have not been introduced due to a legal challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association.

Scotland’s public health minister, Maureen Watt, said: “There is no doubt that a key factor in alcohol related harm is affordability.

“This is why minimum unit pricing is such an important part of our package of measures to tackle the availability of cheap, high strength alcohol that causes so much damage in our communities.”

Dr Peter Bennie, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland, said: “It is disappointing to see the rise in the number of alcohol-related deaths, but it does underline the importance of tackling the culture of heavy drinking in Scotland.”

Source: The Scotsman, 2nd February
 

Alison Douglas: Why 'safe' drinking really means no alcohol

New guidelines confirm that there are no benefits which can outweigh the dangers, writes Alison Douglas

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 six 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.

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 per cent of Scots agree it is important to know how alcohol can affect health, and 87 per cent 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 at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/health-risks-from-alcohol-new-guidelines

Source: The Scotsman, 25th January
 

Cancer deaths fall 10 per cent in a decade - but alcohol fuels rise in liver cases

Cancer death rates in the UK have fallen by almost 10 per cent in a decade, but those fuelled by alcohol and unhealthy lifestyles are rising sharply, new figures show.

A report by Cancer Research UK shows that overall death rates have fallen steadily, thanks to improvements in diagnosis and treatment.

In total, 284 people in a population of 100,000 died from the disease in 2013 - down from 312 in every 100,000 a decade earlier.

But the figures show a rise in specific cancers which can be fuelled by alcohol, smoking and poor diet, with a 60 per cent rise in deaths from liver cancer, and an eight per cent rise in those from pancreatic cancer.

In total, around one in three cancer cases each year in the UK are linked to unhealthy lifestyles, experts have said.

The figures, released to mark World Cancer Day, show that overall, men have seen a 12 per cent fall in death rates, while for women the fall was about eight per cent.

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Today, one in two of all people diagnosed with cancer survive their disease for at least 10 years. Our ambition is to accelerate progress so that three in four survive cancer by 2034.”

Four cancers – lung, bowel, breast and prostate – account for almost half of all deaths from the disease in the UK.

The four saw an 11 per cent drop in death rates over the decade.

The figures show around 4,800 liver cancer deaths in 2013, compared with 2,600 a decade before. There were also around 8,500 pancreatic cancer deaths – a rise from about 7,000 in 2003.

Earlier this week Britain’s most senior doctor sparked controversy in urging other women to “do as I do” and think about the risks of cancer before deciding whether or not to have a drink.

Amid a rising and ageing population, the number of people diagnosed with cancer and the total number of deaths from the disease has increased.

Around 80 per cent of cancer deaths occur in people aged 65 and over, and more than half occur in those aged 75 and older.

Almost 346,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in the UK in 2012, up from 282,000 in 2002. There were around 162,000 UK cancer deaths in total in 2012, up from just over 155,000 a decade before.

Fran Woodard, Director of Policy and Impact at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “While it is very heartening that fewer people are dying from cancer, this research also highlights the growing numbers of people living with the disease and its devastating effects. There are 2.5 million people living with or beyond cancer in the UK and this figure is set to rise to four million by 2030."

“Just because more people are surviving cancer doesn’t mean they are living well. For months or even years after a diagnosis, they might have to deal with debilitating physical side effects of treatment such as incontinence, practical concerns such as significant money worries or the emotional impact such as isolation."

The figures come as a poll from the World Cancer Research Fund found that 18 to 24-year-olds were more aware of cancer risks than over-55s.

Younger people knew more about the risks of being overweight, drinking alcohol, eating a poor diet and not being physically active.

Public health minister Jane Ellison said: "Prevention is key. It's good to see growing awareness in some age groups of the benefits of being a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet and limiting how much alcohol we drink - and it's never too late to kick start a healthier lifestyle."

Meanwhile a study suggested that almost 40,000 more people may take up bowel cancer screening every year if their GP explicitly backs it.

More than one extra case of bowel cancer could be found every week in England if the letter inviting them for screening was endorsed by their GP, according to a study in the British Journal of Cancer.

Source: The Telegraph, 4th February
 

Problem drinkers account for most of alcohol industry's sales, figures reveal

The alcohol industry makes most of its money – an estimated £23.7bn in sales in England alone – from people whose drinking is destroying or risking their health, say experts who accuse the industry of irresponsible pricing and marketing.

While the industry points to the fact that most people in the country are moderate drinkers, 60% of alcohol sales are either to those who are risking their health, or those – labelled harmful drinkers – who are doing themselves potentially lethal damage, figures seen by the Guardian show.

Work by Prof Nick Sheron of Southampton University, co-founder of the Alcohol Health Alliance of more than 40 concerned organisations and colleagues, has established that people who drink dangerously are the industry’s best customers.

“We looked at data from the Health Survey for England and did some calculations on that and we found that in terms of the total alcohol consumed within that survey, 69% was consumed by hazardous and harmful drinkers together,” he said.

Of the 69%, he said, 38% was consumed by “hazardous” or “increasing risk” drinkers who exceed the old guidelines of 14 units a week for women and 21 for men (these have recently come down to 14 units each, with some alcohol-free days), either by bingeing or regular drinking. The rest was consumed by harmful drinkers on more than 50 units a week for men or 35 for women, whose addiction might lead to liver problems including cirrhosis. Public Health England estimates that 10.8 million people drink at risky levels and 1.6 million may have some level of dependence on alcohol.

Separate work in progress from Sheffield University helps to establish the value of this custom to the industry. In 2013, the data shows, 38.2% of the value of alcohol sales in England came from risky drinkers and 24.5% from harmful drinkers. Industry sales in the UK were £45.5bn in 2013. England accounts for 83% of alcohol tax receipts, putting sales at about £37.8bn. That would suggest £14.4bn in sales comes from risky drinkers and £9.3bn from harmful drinkers: £23.7bn in total from drinkers jeopardising their health.

More than 1m hospital admissions a year are related to alcohol, double the number 10 years ago. According to Public Health England, in 2013-14, alcohol cost the NHS £3.5bn.

Harmful drinkers drink so heavily that it is claimed that for many, their habit would be unaffordable if they could not obtain cheap alcohol. In a paper last year, Sheron and colleagues revealed male patients in a liver unit consumed a mean of 146 units a week and female drinkers 142 units. They bought cheap alcohol, at a median price of 33p per unit, whereas low-risk drinkers spent £1.10 per unit. Strong cider such as Frosty Jack’s, made by Aston Manor Cider in Birmingham, is sold in three-litre bottles in outlets such as Iceland at just 15p per unit.

The drinks industry claims it supports responsible drinking. Yet, say critics, it has strongly fought proposals to introduce a minimum price per unit of 50p, which would curb the drinking of those most addicted for whom cost is a real issue.

A recent report from Australia found similar drinking patterns. The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education revealed the industry’s best customers were the 3.8 million Australians who consume more than four standard drinks a day, double the national guidelines. They are 20% of over-14s but drink 74.2% of all alcohol consumed. The industry calls them “super consumers”.

Katherine Brown, director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: “It comes as no surprise to learn the drinks industry relies on excessive consumption of alcohol to boost its profits. Why else would alcohol producers spend millions of pounds on advertising each year encouraging people to drink more, and fund heavyweight lobbyists to fight against public policies designed to tackle harmful drinking?

“This evidence tells us two things. Firstly, the government must take action on cheap alcohol … and secondly, the alcohol industry simply cannot be relied upon to act as messengers on public health.”

Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “There’s no doubt that the drinks industry depends on excessive drinking to drive its profits. Drinks like high-strength white ciders are preferentially consumed by heavy and dependent drinkers, with 50% of those drinking these ciders drinking more than three litres a day, and the damage these drinks do is widely known.

“Importantly, minimum unit pricing would target the highest strength drinks which cause the most harm, leaving the price of lower strength drinks relatively untouched. With minimum unit pricing [MUP], moderate drinkers would barely notice the difference.”

Gerard Hastings, professor of social marketing at Stirling University, said the data “throws into relief the conflict of interest between industry and public health. Industry is driven by the need to sell as much as it possibly can. Ultimately the marketing department rules the waves.”

However, Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “The WSTA opposes MUP because – even if it were legal – it would disproportionately impact responsible drinkers, as well as those on the lowest incomes. Statistics show that the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to drink – and the more you are likely to drink: 15% of people have drunk more than six to eight units in the last week, but this is 23% of the highest earners and 10% of the lowest.”

The Scotch Whisky Association, which led opposition to minimum unit pricing in Scotland, also claims wealthier people drink the hardest. Evidence shows, said its chief executive, David Frost, “that most hazardous and harmful drinkers are among the wealthier parts of the population, are the least sensitive to price and do not tend to opt for the cheapest alcohol. Therefore they are largely unaffected by minimum unit pricing.”

The Institute of Alcohol Studies disputes this, referring to its own report on alcohol and health inequalities, Brown said evidence from Canada showed that a 10% increase in alcohol prices led to a 32% reduction in alcohol-related deaths.

“This is a clear indicator that raising the price of the cheapest alcohol can have significant public health benefits,” said Brown. “With alcohol costing UK society £21bn each year, we can’t afford to keep stacking our supermarket shelves with pocket-money priced drinks.”

Gordon Johncox, managing director of Aston Manor Cider, said it did not recognise the 15p a unit price for a £3.50 three-litre bottle of Frosty Jack’s. “We typically see the price between £4.50 and £5.00 and in recent years we have consistently increased our prices into wholesalers and retailers,” he said. Because companies did not set the retail price, they “cannot control instances of sales to people that are under-age or already intoxicated or recognised as a problem drinker”, he said.

The Portman Group said that as a regulator of alcohol marketing, it could not comment on price, but a spokesman added: “The official statistics show that during the last decade there have been significant declines in binge drinking (down 20%), alcohol-related crime (down 34%), underage drinking (down 36%) and drink driving (down 47%) and drinks companies have contributed to this through a programme of voluntary measures designed to tackle alcohol misuse.

“These actions have been welcomed by government and leading charities and the industry will continue to work alongside public and third sector partners to drive down alcohol-related harms further.”

Source: The Guardian, 22nd January
 

Health boards told to fill £15 million cut in funding for drug and alcohol care

Experts are warning a 22 per cent funding cut for drug and alcohol rehabilitation could see deaths rise and a massive increase in the costs to society.

Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs) have been told by the Scottish Government that direct funding for their work will fall from £69.2 million to £53.8 million this year.

However, Health Secretary Shona Robison also told them in a letter that NHS boards would be expected to make up the £15 million deficit from their increased budgets.

It is unclear whether the health boards, many of which are currently struggling to cut tens of millions of pounds from their budgets, will honour this and insiders warn the move could have catastrophic effects.

Scottish Drugs Forum chief executive David Liddell, whose members depend on the funding, said ADPs and the wider drugs rehabilitation sector had "real concerns" over the negotiations on local 2016/17 spending.

He added: “The fear is that these negotiations will lead to reductions in [overall] funding for frontline services aimed at some of the most vulnerable people in society. This has the potential to increase harm and drug-related deaths.

“Our biggest concern is, of course, with the human consequences, but there is also the very strong argument that cuts to frontline services will lead to a major increase in costs elsewhere – through increased infections, increased hospital admissions, increased crime and criminal justice costs."

Peter Hunter, committee member of Rise recovery community, based in Govan, Glasgow, said any cuts would have potentially devastating effects on people struggling with addiction in the city, where services are already badly oversubscribed.

"This is a triple whammy of national cuts, local cuts and recommissioning, all of which will arrive at the same time," he said. "Each of these three threatens lives if services are cut”

"When I speak to the many people I come across from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and ask them if they have a few million spare to shore up drug and alcohol treatment as suggested by the Scottish Government all you get is a hollow laugh in reply."

It came as community safety minister Paul Wheelhouse launched a new Partnership for Action on Drugs in Scotland (PADS), to reduce problem drug use and replace the seven year old Drugs Strategy Delivery Commission.

Ms Robison has written to ADP chiefs to say that Scottish Government wanted all drug and alcohol treatment services to fall under health to improve consistency and standards. It is understood that she has also written to health board executives.

She said the direct funding cut would be offset by an increase in funding to health boards. "We would expect a total of £15 million to also go towards supporting these efforts and maintain the overall spending on addressing alcohol and substance misuse," she said.

Scottish Drugs Forum said discussions were taking place across the country with health boards to find out what funding would be available from April this year and whether they are in a position to meet the government stated expectations, and said the letters had caused confusion.

ADP chairs and health board chairs were expected to meet with Government officials on Monday to seek reassurances.

Concerns are compounded in Glasgow where combined contracts for drug and alcohol services provided by charities are to be put out to tender. Experts estimate the overall value of these services at £3.5 million currently, but the sum on offer for the work has been cut to £2million.

A government spokesman said: “There will be no cut in funding for ADPs.

“We’ve told health boards that we will be directly providing £53.8 million in 2016/17 to deliver drug and alcohol treatment services; and that we expect boards to supplement this resource from their increased baseline draft budgets to ensure that overall spending on supporting the treatment of alcohol and substance misuse is maintained."

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said a review of community rehabilitation services had found that some providers were dealing with fewer clients than had been agreed and that there was scope to improve services.

He added: "It was also found there needed to be much greater focus on the recovery of those affected by addictions and that services could be simplified and strengthened by being aligned more closely with other services in the three administrative areas of the city.
“In the current financial climate we have to take every opportunity to ensure services are as efficient and effective as possible.
“The new arrangements represent a complete redesign of service and aim to ensure more people can access support for their addictions.
“The capacity for community-based, peer support has also grown significantly since the previous tender exercise in 2005 and we believe this will play a vital role in helping people towards recovery in future.”

Source: Herald Scotland, 30th January

 

Drink-driving: Doctors' alliance calls for cut to limit

A group of doctors and health experts is urging the House of Lords to support a bill to lower the drink-driving limit across the whole of the UK.

They want England, Wales and Northern Ireland brought in line with Scotland.

The bill proposes amending the 1988 Road Traffic Act to lower the blood-alcohol concentration limit from 80mg alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg.

The government said the current limit struck a balance between safety and personal freedom.

The bill, which will be debated in the Lords on Friday, also proposes lowering the limits for alcohol in breath and urine when driving a vehicle.

Because everyone has a different susceptibility to alcohol, health experts say it is difficult to quantify exactly how many units can be drunk before reaching the proposed new limit.

For the average man, it would be just under a pint of beer or a large glass of wine and for women, half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine.

Accident risk

In a letter to the Times, the Alcohol Health Alliance said the move would save lives and improve road safety.

The alliance, which is made up of organisations including the Royal College of Physicians, the British Medical Association and Alcohol Concern, said that at the current limit, drivers are six times more likely to die in a road traffic accident than those who have not drunk any alcohol.

It said a vote in favour of the bill would signal to the government that "now is the time time to lower the drink-driving limit".

Scotland lowered its drink-driving limit to the proposed new level in December 2014 and police figures show that drink-drive offences there fell by 17% in the first three months of 2015.

Northern Ireland is currently consulting on whether to lower its limit.

At present, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have one of the highest drink-driving limits in Europe.

The World Health Organization recommends a limit of 50mg/100ml.

Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance and honorary professor in clinical science at the University of Liverpool, said the overriding reason for lowering the limit was that "several hundreds of lives could be saved in England each year".

And he said the scientific evidence for the change was strong.

Driving deterioration

"There is a wealth of published, peer-reviewed, high quality research on the impact of alcohol on psychomotor skills and judgement.

"While even low levels have an effect on these critical functions, the deterioration in performance moving from a blood level of 50 to 80mg per 100ml are striking."

Prof Gilmore said there was public support for a lowering of the legal drink-drive limit at a time when drink-driving appears to be on the rise.

The Local Government Association recently estimated that lowering the current limit would also save nearly £300m a year by reducing police and ambulance call-outs and hospital admissions.

Personal freedom

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "The drink-driving limit for England and Wales strikes an important balance between safety and personal freedom.

"By having our limit, we are not criminalising those who drink a small amount a long time before driving, but our advice remains unchanged: don't take the risk by driving after you have had a drink."

People who have served road bans in England and Wales for serious drink-driving offences have to pass a medical examination before they can regain their licence.

Source: BBC News, 29th January
 

Alcohol licences given 'willy nilly'

Dundee City Council’s health convener has blasted the licensing committee for “dishing out off-licences willy-nilly” in the past.

It comes as it was revealed that the region’s cancer mortality rate sits significantly above the UK national average.

Speaking at a Tayside NHS board meeting, on a discussion about cancer, Councillor Ken Lynn took aim at the licensing committee for “being late in the day” to realise the link between alcohol, smoking and different types of cancer.

In 2014, the licensing board adopted a policy, agreeing that Dundee had an over-provision of alcohol.

Since then, the committee has still granted a series of new applications — mainly for restaurants and shops — but recent weeks have seen two high-profile licence rejections.

Aldi wanted to sell booze from its proposed new shop at Myrekirk and was knocked back, while a bid to license a planned new restaurant and bar at Caird House, in Nethergate, was also rejected.

Mr Lynn said: “They were dishing out off-licences willy-nilly and now that they have started to properly enforce their own policy, there seems to have been a public outcry — surrounding the decision to not grant a license to Aldi.

“I don’t think that we deserve too much praise in this regard. I have been very unimpressed by some of the actions of the licensing committee.”

Councillor Lynn said that he thought that the public reaction to the decision not to grant Aldi a licence to sell alcohol showed the difficulty that the health board has in informing the public about the dangers of alcohol and smoking in regards to cancer.

Mr Lynn added:“If elected members are so late in the day in realising the link between granting licences and the link between oesophageal cancer and other types of cancer then I think that it shows how difficult the message is to get across.”

Councillor Lynn said that he intended to secure a place on the licensing committee to represent health in matters of licensing.

According to NHS Tayside figures, the mortality rate amongst all types of cancers is 184.3 per 100,000 of population. The overall statistic for Scotland weighs in at 175 per head of population.

This is despite the incidence rate in Tayside being lower than the UK — with the regions figures showing 400.5 instances per 100,000 and the national average being 403.8.

The outlook for the male population in Tayside shows that mortality is also higher than the UK average — with 210.8 per 100,000 men dying from cancer in Tayside as opposed to 202.8 nationally.

The UK female population has a mortality rate of 147.2. In Tayside, the rate is 158.4 per 100,000.

Source: The Evening Telegraph, 2nd February
 

Ministers lobbied 40 times in three months on alcohol issues

Government Ministers and their officials were lobbied on alcohol-related issues more than 40 times in a three-month period, an analysis of the new register of lobbying shows.

Most of the lobbying concerned the Government’s planned legislation to counter alcohol abuse but other topics included the importance of Irish drink exports and the campaign to allow pubs open on Good Friday.

The Minister for Health was the most frequently lobbied Minister on the alcohol issue, followed by Minister for Sport and Tourism Paschal Donohoe. Taoiseach Enda Kenny was also lobbied in face-to-face meetings on several occasions.

Along with drinks companies and their representative bodies, sports organisations such as the Irish Rugby Football Union and its Munster branch were also active in lobbying against any attempt to ban sports sponsorship by the sector.

Alexandre Ricard, chief executive of drinks multinational Pernod Ricard, met the Taoiseach at an event in Paris, where he impressed on Mr Kenny “the importance of supportive domestic policies as underpinning export success,” according to the register.

Irish Distillers, which is owned by Pernod Ricard, invited Tánaiste Joan Burton to speak at the opening of a micro-distillery in Midleton, Co Cork. Informal discussions took place on the “global success” of Jameson whiskey and the economic impact of the indigenous distilling industry.

Public relations

Among the public relations firms actively lobbying in relation to alcohol issues were Q4 PR, Hume Brophy and MKC Communications.

Industry group Ibec made its views known to a wide variety of Ministers, including the Taoiseach and Ministers Leo Varadkar, Paschal Donohoe, Michael Noonan, Alex White and Simon Coveney.

The IRFU wrote to Mr Varadkar and Mr Donohoe to underline its concerns about the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill and to seek a meeting.

The rugby organisation’s Munster branch appealed in an email to Mr Coveney and Mr Noonan not to change the legislation as it would have “a major adverse impact on our ability to continue as a professional sporting organisation”. A meeting was sought with the Ministers but never took place.

 Source: Irish Times, 26th January
 

Aberdeen Airport petrol station will now sell alcohol, despite NHS opposition

VENUES across Ayrshire will face new guidelines on introducing the popular drinks packages.

Bars have been accused of dishing up free flowing drink as part of a new craze.

So-called ‘booze booths’ are causing concern for licensing chiefs in South Ayrshire.

The popular offer involves revellers swilling all inclusive alcohol packages.

But drinks bosses are worried that a lack of legislation is allowing punters to down huge quantities at a time.

“The booth packages are becoming increasingly popular,” said Catrina Andrew, South Ayrshire’s licensing standards officer.

“I am aware that these packages are offered all over Scotland and that concerns have been voiced in relation to the unregulated consumption.

“Patrons are able to self-pour, which may result in drinking a larger measure than they had intended drinking or drinking quickly.

“Obviously in relation to any promotion the outcome depends on the way in which it is run and what control measures are put in place by operators.”

Ms Andrew is now calling for South Ayrshire to develop a “Best Practice” document on the scheme.

She added: “The ‘Booth Package’ concept runs well in South Ayrshire venues where responsible operators have a policy detailing their management steps.” 

Source: Daily Record, 31st January 
 

Alcohol brands dodge advertising ban by using social media to target young drinkers

The law doesn’t allow alcohol brands to advertise. Instead, alcohol companies are now using social media to target the young urban population.

As social media is easily accessible and popular among young people, alcohol companies are targeting potential customers between 15 to 45 years, which accounts for around 46 per cent of the Indian population.

“Though the use of media like television, radio, newspapers, etc., for the promotion of alcohol is not permitted, the law is silent on the social media. This is used as an opportunity by alcohol companies to legally market their brand on social media sites, in an innovative manner,” said Dr Zakirhusain A Shaikh of the department of community medicine at Jamia Hamdard.

Dr Shaikh recently studied the trend for the misuse of social media marketing by alcohol companies and his research has been published in the journal of mental health and human behaviour.

Alcohol is prohibited in some states, while the legal drinking ages in India varies from 18 years to 25 years.

While analysing the presence of alcohol companies over social media, it was found that 26 brands of alcohol had active pages on Facebook. These pages receive numerous hits per day (which means a user has liked it and favours its contents). Followers in these pages range from 14 to 17.7 million.

At least 14 brands of alcohol were identified to have a presence on Twitter, and 20 brands of alcohol were found on YouTube.

The Facebook policy speaks only about paid advertising and not about the content posted by users on their individual accounts or groups or pages.

“There is ample content posted by alcohol companies on their Facebook accounts, which is apparently not specifically governed or prohibited under any Facebook policy. Besides, any person aged 13 years or more can have a Facebook account, which means children are potentially exposed to the content pertaining to alcohol, as there is no age screening for content of groups or pages,” said Dr Shaikh.

Though popular search engines like Google restricts advertisement of alcohol, it has no notification on posting of content pertaining to liquor on its sites like YouTube.

“YouTube was found to have accounts by alcohol companies with videos marketing alcohol brands. Also, none of these videos were marked as unsuitable for a child, which means a child of any age has an easy access to these videos,” he said.

“An analysis of Indian alcohol policy and policies of various social media sites reveal several loopholes. There is no central uniform policy regarding alcohol. The laws regarding the advertisement of alcohol do not adequately cover the modern media like social media and mobile applications. The alcohol policies of social media are vague and do not have adequate and stringent provisions. Besides, their policies mostly deal with alcohol advertising and not with user-generated alcohol-related promotional content,” Dr Shaikh added.

Source: Daily Mail, 19th January

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