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

23 July 2015



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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.


Health Chieft blasts alcohol lobbyists

EU health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis blasted the influence of powerful corporate lobbyists for the alcohol industry Thursday, calling them “blind” to the premature deaths of their customers.

Much of the commissioner’s remarks focused on alcohol, and Andriukaitis, a doctor by training, had harsh words for corporate interests. He said the sensitive issues of pricing, marketing and labeling should all be addressed at the EU level.

“But believe me it is not so easy,” the former health minister for Lithuania told a crowd of health wonks at the European Policy Centre in Brussels.

Referring to the EU’s mandatory nutrition labeling for food products, he said: “Alcohol is the exception. Why? Because of lobbying.”

Parliament voted in April to push the Commission to adopt a new alcohol strategy, also advising member countries to “implement policies and treatments within their healthcare systems that reduce alcohol addiction in individuals.”

Alcohol is now exempt from EU-wide rules that require nutritional information on most products. That loophole is among some 50 policy proposals laid out in the resolution, which includes hard measures like considering minimum pricing and weaker requests for member nations to “develop policies” to “promote healthy lifestyle behaviors.”

The commissioner, who took office last November, said he has been meeting with industry representatives to argue his case.

“It is strange to be so blind … you lose every year 8,000 young consumers … you reduce your consumer market … you lose consumers, people who die prematurely,” he said.

Scotland is currently locked in a battle with alcohol interests at the European Court of Justice over its minimum unit pricing policy.

“We must discuss minimum unit price; it is a good idea,” Andriukaitis said.

One public health advocate said the commissioner’s words were hollow.

“The previous commissioner … also indicated his support but that hasn’t stopped the Commission putting up lawyers at the ECJ to argue against the Scottish Government’s legislation,” said Eric Carlin, director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems. “No doubt influenced by industry lobbyists.”

Andriukaitis sought to dispel the view of some NGOs that the Commission has put aside the bid by Parliament to adopt a new alcohol-harm prevention strategy. No decision has been made, he said.

Nearly two dozen NGOs resigned from a stakeholders group on alcohol in June because of the Commission’s lack of action.

“In terms of alcohol labeling it is indeed difficult to understand why the EU institutions back in 2011 regarded it good for the consumers to provide information on a bottle of milk but not a bottle of wine,” said Aleksandra Kaczmarek, a senior policy officer at Eurocare, an alliance of NGOs and public health groups.

She said if the commissioner wants to see real results at the end of his five-year term, he should not “only talk about it. Bringing labeling requirements for alcohol in line with other food products would be one such tangible result that he could achieve.”

An official with spiritsEUROPE did not have an immediate comment but noted it was awaiting a report that the nutrition directive had mandated on alcohol labeling. The industry group also claims to back “useful, appropriate information for consumers, whether that is information about nutrition, origin, ingredients, responsible drinking messages or any other relevant information.”

Ilaria Passarani, head of the food and health for the consumer group BEUC is also waiting.

“We expect the European Commission to at least ensure that consumers know what they are drinking,” she said. “The report on the exemption of alcoholic beverages from the labeling requirement set in the Food Information regulation was due last year and it still has not seen the light of day.”

Tempatations of alcohol being replaced by the lure of social media for many young Britons, says new study

The temptations of drink are being replaced by the lure of social media for many young Britons, some of whom worry that their reputations would suffer from drunken antics posted online, according to new research.

Nineteen per cent of 16-24-year-olds don’t drink, and 66 per cent claim that alcohol is not important to their social lives, states the report from the Demos think tank.

The findings echo figures from the Office of National Statistics, released earlier this year, which revealed that the proportion of 16-24 year olds who claim to be teetotal has risen from 19 per cent to 27 per cent during the past decade.

The sobering effect of social media – whether as a distraction or a deterrent – is cited as a factor in the decline in drinking by more than four in ten young people polled for Demos.

“The survey results certainly indicate that the growing importance of social media in modern life in playing a role in young people's decisions around alcohol - both explicitly and implicitly. Overall, 42 per cent of the young people we surveyed felt that the Internet and platforms such as Facebook have given young people more things to fill their time,” commented Ian Wybron, co-author of the report.

“What's more, 29 per cent of young people cited concerns about their online reputations as contributing to the decline in youth alcohol consumption - showing an increasing awareness of the 'shareability' of social media could be encouraging them to steer away from excessive drinking,” he added.

Other reasons given by 16-24 year olds to explain the change in drinking habits include a growing awareness of the health risks of alcohol and not being able to afford to drink.

Falling alcohol rates cannot simply be put down to an increase in migrant populations from non-drinking cultures, as this would only account for around a third of the rise in the number of young people not drinking, says the report.

It recommends that Public Health England examine the reasons for the shift in drinking habits, and that the Government develop an early intervention strategy as part of its approach to tackling alcohol misuse.

Responding to the findings, Professor Mark Bellis, alcohol lead for the UK Faculty of Public Health, said: “The pace and extent of change to the environment where young people develop is without precedent. Drinking alcohol at home or in pubs, bars and clubs now has to compete with social media, on line games and on demand TV for young people’s time and money.”

He added: “Some reductions in drinking may result from new technologies providing appealing alternatives to cheap booze but the same new technologies have also  helped spread damaging trends like Neknominate.”

South Wales Police teams up with university to on plan to crack down on drunkenness in town and city centres

A major initiative aimed at reducing the vulnerability of young people who drink to excess in city and town centres across South Wales is being spearheaded by Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Sophie Howe.

Ms Howe, a former Cardiff Labour councillor, is leading efforts to minimise public drunkenness and alcohol-related violence that occurs largely on Friday and Saturday nights.

She praised the work of volunteer street pastors, whose efforts in Cardiff city centre to improve the safety of revellers were featured on WalesOnline last week.

And she revealed that South Wales Police has been working with Liverpool John Moores University to devise ways of tackling the problem.

A research project undertaken by the university’s Centre for Public Health resulted in an evaluation report on Liverpool’s Say No to Drunks pilot project being published in April. It provides insights that are relevant to Cardiff and elsewhere.

Sale of alcohol

The report says: “The sale of alcohol to drunk people is illegal in the UK.

“Despite this, drunkenness is a common feature of nightlife settings while public awareness of the law and bar server compliance with it appears to be low.

“A study conducted in Liverpool found that 84% of alcohol purchase attempts by pseudo-intoxicated actors in pubs, bars and nightclubs were successful.

“Thus to address the sale of alcohol to drunks in the city’s nightlife, Liverpool City Council and Merseyside Police developed and implemented the Say No To Drunks pilot intervention.

“The intervention aimed to increase awareness of legislation preventing sales of alcohol to drunks; support bar staff compliance with the law; provide a strong deterrence to selling alcohol to drunks; and promote responsible drinking amongst nightlife users.

“It included a social marketing and public awareness raising campaign; bar staff training; police enforcement; and the provision of breathalysers to door supervisors to support entry refusal.”

Disturbing findings

A survey carried out among drinkers in Liverpool city centre had some disturbing findings:

The majority (95.8%) of nightlife patrons surveyed had consumed alcohol before taking part in the survey;

Two thirds (65.4%) of drinkers reported “preloading” and 20.0% en route loading. Preloading was more common in younger people and students;

In total, median expected alcohol use amongst drinkers over the course of the night out – including alcohol already consumed and expected to be consumed post survey – was 15.7 units, the equivalent of nearly eight pints of beer. Median alcohol use was significantly higher among males, non-Liverpool residents and preloaders.

More than one in eight (13.1%) of all participants intended to drink more alcohol after leaving the city’s nightlife – for example, at home.

The majority (over 70%) of participants expected their level of drunkenness to be high when they left the city’s nightlife that night; reported a high drunkenness rating as their ideal level of drunkenness; thought that the typical level of drunkenness that people reach on a night out in the city centre was high; and believed that getting drunk was socially accepted in Liverpool’s nightlife.

Over six in ten participants agreed that bar staff in the city centre do not care if people get drunk on their premises; if someone was drunk and tried to get served alcohol on a night out in Liverpool they would usually be served; and in the city centre it is easy for people who are drunk to buy more alcohol.

Knowledge of the law was low: just under half (46.9%) of all participants thought that it was legal for a bar server to sell alcohol to someone who was already drunk and 53.5% thought that it was legal for a person to buy alcohol for a friend who was already drunk.

Activists seek to ride SNP surge to water down ''Big Whisky''

A group of SNP activists is tabling a motion for this year's party conference in Aberdeen to promote Scottish Government intervention in the Scotch Whisky industry.

The group, which includes a former drinks company executive, a trade unionist, and affilates of the Common Weal think tank claims that Scotch, "an extraordinarily valuable commodity" is not delivering sufficient jobs and economic benefit to Scotland under current, largely multinational, ownership.

The delegates hope to urge Scotland's ruling party to use its strengthened mandate to challenge the ownership structure and alleged economic "underperformance" of the nation's premium consumer export.

A spokesman said: "Scotch's provenance has huge commercial value and it is our view that it is the duty of the SNP to do all it can ensure that Scotland's people benefit from this bounty."

The proposed motion, to be submitted this week, is in the name of EIS official Bill Ramsay (Glasgow Southside Central Branch) and Donnie Blair (Edinburgh Central), a former Diageo executive and an longstanding critic of the Scotch Whisky Association, the industry's Edinburgh-based representative body.

The proposed motion reads: "Conference calls upon the Scottish Government to establish a task force to consider... how to further develop the employment potential of the Scottish whisky industry.. to look at the feasibility of reforming the licensing regime for distilleries... to ensure that more of the revenue raised from the activities of the industry stay in stay in Scotland [and to] examine the feasibility of increasing the revenue of the industry"

Ramsay said : "The closing date for motions is next week when the standing orders and agenda committee will meet,"

"The first hurdle is to ensure it's on the list of motions and then we would like to be sure that if it is on the agenda, it's not motion six on a Friday, when things can fall off the end, if you get my drift. We will be trying to ensure that our motion is taken first."

Common Weal blogger Ben Wray wrote last week: "[Scotch is] an extraordinarily profitable industry. It is perfectly understandable that the multinationals who own most of it want to minimise investment and maximise relative returns. This motion is really very modest but when viewed by the perspective of the industry majors, very dangerous. If taken up by the Scottish Government, the discourse around how the industry is regulated will effectively take place in public for the first time."

The group is concerned that the majority of the industry (around 83%) is owned outwith Scotland, that the majority of raw materials (around 98%) are sourced from suppliers outwith Scotland, along with the majority of the high-value jobs. It also cites the research of the Oxford economist Prof. John Kay who has estimates that only about 2% of global revenues stay in Scotland.

According to the SWA, which has previously rejected Blair's analysis, Scotch generated £3.95 billion for the UK balance of trade, contributing £1b n to the Exchequer in taxes. They claim that the industry employees over 10,000 "many in economically deprived areas", as well as supporting over 40,000 jobs across the UK.

Parents could be in trouble over booze ads ban proposals

PARENTS could be prosecuted under a Labour clampdown on booze adverts, legal experts have warned.

The party’s public health spokesman Dr Richard Simpson wants alcohol displays banned in some public places, including near to schools.

His Private Members’ Bill lodged at Holyrood also proposes on embargo on caffeinated alcoholic drinks, such as tonic wine Buckfast.

Under the former GP’s plans, alcohol adverts would be outlawed within 200 metres of schools.

It would also become an offence to promote drink at cultural and sporting events where most attendees are under the age of 18.

But Holyrood’s Health Committee, which is studying the Alcohol (Licensing, Public Health and Criminal Justice) (Scotland) Bill, has been told the proposals are unenforceable. In its submission, the Law Society of Scotland warns mothers and fathers could unwittingly fall foul of the law by wearing sponsored clothing on the school run.

The body told MSPs: “In terms of the Bill, ‘advertisement’ means any word, letter, image, mark, light, model, placard, board, notice, screen, awning, blind, flag, device, representation, container or package in the nature of, and employed wholly or partly for the purpose of, advertisement or promotion and ‘alcohol advertisement’ means an advertisement promoting alcohol.

“Given this wide definition, it would appear in our view that an offence would be committed, for example, where a poster referring to a sporting event sponsored by a drinks company was displayed within the window of a private dwellinghouse in a restricted area or if a parent or guardian wears a football or rugby jersey with an alcohol sponsor when collecting children from school.

“This provision accordingly runs the risk of not just affecting persons with an interest in advertising but also, unknowingly, members of the public.”

The Portman Group, which represents the alcohol industry, and the Advertising Standards Authority said there were already a string of voluntary regulations in place to protect children, including an existing ban on outdoor commercials within 100 metres of a school front gate.

Dr Simpson also wants banning orders to prevent those who get drunk and take part in crime or disorder from being admitted to licensed premises.

Other measures in the Bill include bottle-tagging schemes, which have been piloted in Dundee and Glasgow and which are aimed at tackling underage drinking. Bottles are tagged with a link to the seller, helping police to trace the vendor of alcohol found in the possession of children.

The Bill also proposes that alcoholic drinks with more than 150mg per litre of caffeine be outlawed.

A previous attempt to get the measures passed failed but Labour hopes to gain cross-party support.

But Scottish Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “The answer from the SNP and Labour all too often is just to ban things.

“There’s no question we have work to do when it comes to dealing with Scotland’s deep-rooted and complex relationship with alcohol, but we clearly can’t have a situation where parents have to worry about their clothing choice when picking up their children from school for fear of flouting the law.”

There is as yet no sign of any Scottish Government support for the new legislation.

Dr Simpson said: “It is an uncomfortable fact Scotland has a difficult relationship with alcohol. Incidences of alcohol related cirrhosis have increased steadily over the past 30 years, particularly in young people.

“My Bill is an attempt to address that, with proposals to restrict alcohol advertising, change licensing laws and ensure that people with problems get the treatment they need.

“The Health Committee recently consulted on the Bill and we received a wide range of responses.

“Many, including the Law Society, welcomed the intent of the Bill.

“Parliament will consider this in more detail when we return after the summer recess

Middle-age hangover: biggest drinker are aged 45-64

Middle-aged Britons are drinking far more than young adults, even though they are aware of the potential harm it might be causing to their health.

A study based on a survey of 2,294 adults aged 18-75 estimates that 3.4 million people between 45 and 64 regularly exceed the government’s recommended alcohol limits.

Drinkaware, the alcohol education charity, found that a third of the older group - considered the country’s “hidden drinkers” - consume alcohol to increasing or high-risk levels compared with a fifth of 18 to 24-year-olds.

The hidden drinkers are said to be drinking more than 35 units (three and a half bottle of wine) a week for women, and more than 50 units for men.

Two-thirds of the middle-aged drinkers identified as at risk said that they drank four or more times a week.

While most say they are not getting drunk, the charity said they are consuming alcohol at levels associated with serious health problems, including liver disease and cancer.

Elaine Hindal, Drinkaware chief executive, said: “In contrast to public perceptions that young adults are the more risky drinkers in the UK, in fact over the course of the week, their parents’ generation are drinking more.

“Our research shows that 45 to 64-year-olds could potentially be sleepwalking into long term health problems as a result of their drinking patterns.

“Regularly drinking above the lower risk limits can increase your tolerance to the short-term effects of alcohol - but not to the strain it’s putting on your liver. As your tolerance increases, you’re more likely to drink more.

“This habitual behaviour could also put you at an increased risk of becoming alcohol dependent. Just because you don’t feel like you are drinking enough to get drunk doesn’t mean you aren’t damaging your health.

“This is one of the main reasons it’s important to give your liver a break by taking regular days off from drinking.”

More than half (59 per cent) of middle-aged drinkers said they do not want guidance on how to moderate their intake, compared with just over a third (37 per cent) of 18 to 24-year-olds who drink.

Drinkaware said that middle-aged drinkers may think their drinking is not harmful because they are not experiencing negative consequences associated with drunkenness.

However, when asked, one in six (17 per cent) of 45 to 64-year-old drinkers said they had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking and one in nine (11 per cent) said they failed to do what was normally expected of them because of their drinking.

United Spirits aims to be a responsible marketer of alcohol; changes cultures & adopts new strategies

United Spirits, India's largest liquor firm, has kicked off an aggressive brand reputation building, and organisational restructuring initiatives resructuring initiatives as it looks to build a sustainable long ter business under its new owner Diageo, the world's biggest spirits maker.

"The focus is to evolve into a responsible marketer of alcohol," company CEO Anand Kripalu, who is driving an organisational culture change in United Spirits (USL), told ET in an exclusive inter view. The USL-Diageo integration is complete, he said.

The initiative comes in the back drop of an ongoing boardroom battle whereby former promoter Vijay Mallya has refused to accept a Board demand to step down as chairman, and corporate governance issues faced by the Rs 10,000-crore company. Kripalu, a fast-moving consumer goods veteran and former head of Cadbury India, said the boardroom tussle does not interfere with his duties as CEO.

"As of today Dr Mallya is the non-executive chairman of the USL board and we share a very professional relationship," he said. "I am focused on my mandate to build a profitable and ethical alcohol business that meets all stakeholder needs." Kripalu is driving an organisational culture change in USL. The spirits maker is now following an FMCG power brand strategy . "I am finding that in the liquor business, the power of brands is bigger than that in FMCG business," he said.

According to him, USL is moving away from a push-oriented sales strategy to winning in store. Its retail space in 15,000 shops identified as `perfect outlets' have been transformed to build imagery for its key brands. "We had 150 brands but now have a sharper portfolio; we are building brand equity within the store," Kripalu said.

The company has identified brands such as Johnnie Walker, Malt, Searock, Black Dog, Black 69, Royal Challenge, McDowell's No 1, Smirnoff, Bagpiper, and DSP White Mischief to be a part of the power brand strategy.

A sizeable number of the power brands are from the USL portfolio. Its brands such as McDowell's No.1, Bagpiper and Royal Challenge whiskies are estimated to account for more than 40% of branded alcohol sales in the country. The management of USL has also been changed selectively. "We have tried to integrate good talent from both sides," Kripalu said.

"I am doing skip-level meetings and lunches with young managers and infecting the organisation with a collaborative spirit to ensure horizontal working. The
company worked well vertically earlier but things would get stalled when it came to cross-functional operations. It has always been a hierarchical, command and
control organisation," he said.

So, he has redesigned the organisational structure without management layers, created new functions, overhauled rewards and compensation strategy, and brought in several employee-friendly policies such as flexiwork and work from home policies, casual Friday and open parking. Kripalu has also put in place a smaller executive committee comprising seven people, replacing the earlier management committee comprising 20-plus people.

He said Diageo has given him a freehand to run the operations and drive change. "USL is not a matrix organisation like most MNCs and so I don't have to wait for half a dozen approvals to get things going," he said. "USL is like an executional army.... There is a premium on execution...and my focus is to nurture and protect this speed of execution. We can always apply a little more thought before execution," he said.

USL's operating profit was Rs 536 crore in the yearended March 2015 against Rs 94 crore loss in the previous year. The company reported net loss of Rs 1,956 crore, mainly because of exceptional items arising out of provisions for losses from the previous balance sheet. The overall debt has been reduced to Rs 4,986
crore from Rs 8,307 crore a year earlier.

Post a senior leadership meeting in London two weeks ago, Kripalu addressed an employee town-hall last week to update employees on the role USL will play in contributing to Diageo's global performance.

Ryanair bans duty-free alcohol on UK flights to Ibiza

Duty-free alcohol has been banned on all Ryanair flights from the UK to Ibiza to improve the "comfort and safety" of passengers and crew.

The airline confirmed any alcohol purchased after security checks would now have to be placed in hold luggage or disposed of at the departure gate.

Previously it had banned alcohol on flights to Ibiza from Scotland.

The airline sent emails detailing the ban to passengers, saying bags would now be searched at departure gates.

The airline said: "Any alcohol purchased in airport shops or elsewhere must be packed carefully in a suitable item of cabin baggage, which will be tagged at the gate and then placed in the aircraft hold free of charge.

"If the alcohol is unsuitable for placing in the hold (eg a plastic bag) then customers will be required to dispose of the alcohol in the bins provided."

It added: "Boarding gates will be carefully monitored and customers showing any signs of anti-social behaviour or attempting to conceal alcohol will be denied travel without refund or compensation."

Ryanair operated flights to Ibiza from Bristol, East Midlands, Stansted, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow Prestwick, Manchester and Leeds Bradford airports.

It said the safety of passengers is a "number one priority".

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it backed attempts to deal with drink-related problems on flights.

"It is actually a specific criminal offence to be drunk on board an aircraft, and also to refuse to comply with instructions from the captain," a CAA statement said.

"We support UK airlines' efforts to deal with disruptive passengers to ensure the safety of all those on board, and welcome criminal prosecutions where appropriate."

Rates of drunk driving tied to state alcohol policies, BU study finds

States with more restrictive alcohol policies and regulations have lower rates of self-reported drunk driving, according to a new study by researchers at the Boston University schools of public health and medicine and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

The research team assigned each state an "alcohol policy score," based on an aggregate of 29 alcohol policies, such as alcohol taxation and the use of sobriety checkpoints. Each 1 percentage point increase in the score was found to be associated with a 1 percent decrease in the likelihood of impaired driving, according to the study, published in the International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research.

"A 10 percent increase in strength among state alcohol policy environments in all states would result in about 404,903 fewer impaired drivers monthly," the researchers reported.

A surprising finding of the study was that laws intended to prevent binge drinking -- such as high alcohol taxes, safe serving laws, and retail sales restrictions -- were equally as protective against drunk driving as were laws specifically targeting impaired driving, such as sobriety checkpoints. Previous research has shown that states with stronger alcohol policy scores had lower rates of binge drinking.

"Basically, our study supports two parallel mechanisms involved in addressing drunk driving: Drinking policies reduce the likelihood of getting drunk, and driving policies prevent drunk folks from getting behind the wheel," said Ziming Xuan, ScD, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health.

Nationally, the proportion of motor vehicle crashes that have been alcohol related has remained stagnant at around 33 percent throughout the past two decades.

"It is clear that in order for states to comprehensively address drunk driving as a public health issue, more effective policies need to be put into place to address excessive alcohol consumption," Xuan said. He noted that states making more efforts to address binge drinking have seen decreased rates of self-reported drunk driving.

Dr. Timothy Naimi, the study's senior author and an associate professor of medicine and public health at BU and a physician in general internal medicine at Boston Medical Center, said that while states have done a lot to prevent impaired people from driving, "we haven't done enough to prevent people from getting drunk in the first place. Drunk driving isn't just a driving problem -- it's a drinking problem."

The research team concluded: "Our findings support the importance of comprehensive alcohol policies as an effective means to reduce alcohol-impaired driving, and further indicate that strengthening drinking-oriented policies (e.g., increasing alcohol taxes) is a critical component of an overall policy approach."

Alcohol helps cut disability caused by chronic pain from conditions like fibromyalgia say scientists

Two pints of beer a day could help to reduce disability in people with chronic pain, according to a new report yesterday.

In a study of 2,239 individuals with chronic widespread pain, the key feature of conditions such as fibromyalgia, those who regularly consumed alcohol had lower levels of disability than those who never or rarely drank.

Those who drank 21 to 35 units of alcohol per week were 67 per cent less likely than non-drinkers to experience disability.

“We cannot say that alcohol consumption causes less disability among people with chronic widespread pain.

“But the observed link warrants further investigation,” said Dr Gary Macfarlane, co-author of the Arthritis Care & Research study, who is professor of epidemiology at the University of Aberdeen.

One unit of alcohol is a half pint of average strength beer/lager, one small glass of wine, or one single measure of spirits.

The study is the latest of many to suggest the benefits of alcohol, but health groups stress that this means drinking in moderation.

“The important part of that message is that “alcohol in moderation” means one or two glasses of wine, beer or spirits. Not three,” says the Arthritis Foundation website.

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