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

12th March 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.

Britain turns its back on strong beer

The Telegraph - 8th March

Beer drinkers are turning their back on strong lager with 2 billion fewer units of alcohol consumed in the last two years, official figures show.

Experts said the fall – the equivalent of 1 billion fewer pints of medium strength beer – is a result of efforts by the alcohol industry to offer a greater choice of lower-strength drinks, welcomed by health-conscious consumers.

A Department of Health report shows that between 2011 and 2013 the number of units of alcohol sold has reduced by 1.9 billion.

Much of the fall is because the average strength of beer sold has fallen from 4.42 per cent to 4.14 per cent over the period, the report says.

The British Beer and Pub Association said brewers are responding to consumer demand, and Government decisions to offer tax relief on lower strength beers.

One of the changes, in 2011, meant lower tax on beers with 2.8 per cent alcohol or less.

Since then, a number of manufacturers have reduced the strength of best-selling products, and launched lower-alcohol products.

Carlsberg UK reduced the strength of its Skol lager from 3 per cent to 2.8 per cent, while Greene King launched a new product, Tolly English Ale, at 2.8 per cent.

Meanwhile, high strength-lagers Stella Artois, Budweiser and Becks have all been reduced from 5 per cent to 4.8 per cent, and John Smith’s Extra Smooth ale has fallen from 3.8 per cent to 3.6 per cent.

Jane Ellison, public health minister said that between them, more than 30 companies had removed 1.3 billion units of the alcohol from the market, by reducing the strength of their products.

She said: "A healthier option is becoming more popular, and we are helping people who want to reduce their alcohol intake whilst still enjoying a drink.”

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said consumers were choosing lower alcohol drinks for a number of reasons, including their lower calorie content.

“British brewers have responded to consumer demand for a greater range and choice of lower-strength beers, many with new flavours and ingredients,” she said.

“We’ve seen the Government’s decision to give 50 per cent tax relief to lower-strength beers combining with a growth in interest among consumers for lower-strength drinks like beer, that are also lower in calories.”

Henry Ashworth, chief executive, Portman Group, the drinks industry body said manufacturers had worked in partnership with government to help ensure more responsible drinking.

Tom Smith, Head of Policy at Alcohol Concern, said the change was welcome, but warned that the UK is one of the few European countries where liver disease remains on the increase.

“While we welcome the decrease in the number of alcohol units in the market, we can’t ignore the fact our NHS and communities continue to strain under the burden of alcohol harms,” he said.

The charity is calling for a minimum unit price for alcohol, and tighter restrictions on alcohol advertising.

Last month new figures from the Office for National Statistics showed a dramatic rise in the number of young people shunning alcohol.

The number of under-25s opting for total abstinence from drink has leapt by 40 per cent in just eight years as young people overtake the elderly as the most sober generation.

New figures published by the Office for National Statistics in February show that more than a quarter of young people do not drink alcohol at all, while heavy nights of drinking are in decline.

However, global figures show the UK’s binge drinking levels are still among the highest in the world.

The World Health Organisation research examined 196 countries and placed the UK 13th highest for heavy drinking - worse than countries such as Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus and Hungary.

In total, 28 per cent of Britons were classed as having had episode of heavy drinking in the previous month - almost twice as much as the global average, of 16 per cent.

How the strength of leading beers and ciders on sale has reduced since 2011:

Rolling Rock – 5% to 2.8%

Stella Artois – 5% to 4.8%

Budweiser – 5% to 4.8%

John Smith’s Extra Smooth 3.8% to 3.6%

Strongbow cider– 5.3% to 5%

Beck’s – 5% to 4.8%

New lower-strength brands introduced:

Foster’s Radler - 2% (lager cut with cloudy lemon)

Tolly English Ale - 2.8%

Carling Zest – 2.8%

Carslberg Citrus – 2.8%

Transplant patients to get organs from drug addicts 

The Telegraph - 9th March

DOCTORS could give transplant patients organs from “high risk” people, including cancer victims, drug addicts or those with infections, under radical NHS plans to tackle the UK’s shortage of healthy donors.

Health experts are proposing a special “fast-track” waiting list for high-risk organs, which would be offered to dying patients who are in desperate need of a transplant.

Documents supporting the proposal state: “The hypothesis underpinning this project is that the potential risks of disease and mortality associated with transplanting these kidneys could be less than the mortality in some selected patients, without transplantation.

“The aims of this project are to utilise and match these kidneys from donors who are currently being turned down with a group or urgent patients at risk of mortality without transportation.”

Under the plans, patients would be given the option of going on the high-risk waiting list where they may be offered an organ from a diseased donor. They would also remain on the general waiting list.

The proposals may be considered by some as controversial following the death in Cardiff of two men who were given kidneys with a rare infection transmitted from an alcoholic donor.

The relatives of Darren Hughes, 42, and grandfather Robert Stuart, 67, say they were never told about the lifestyle of the donor by doctors at University of Wales Hospital in Cardiff.

Binge drinking in men peaks at 25 before every day boozing starts later in life, says study

The Independent - 6th March

The amount of alcohol a man drinks is the highest at around the age of 25, according to a new study.

Alcohol consumption sharply rises during the carefree teenage years and reaches the highest levels of frequency and volume in the mid-twenties, when it becomes the linchpin of most social and corporate events.

Men’s drinking spikes to around 23 units per week – the equivalent of nine pints of beer at 4% strength – while a similar but less dramatic pattern is seen in women but with a lower overall weekly consumption of around eight units.

After the hedonistic age of 25, the drinking declines before plateauing in the 30s and 40s for more than half of men. Very frequent drinking is more likely among males in their mid to old age before tailing off to around five to ten units weekly.

Around 60,000 people from adolescents to those over 90 were studied to determine how much and how often they drink on a weekly basis.

Women were found to have steadier drinking rates throughout their lives compared to men with a slow but significant decline in consuming alcohol from around the age of 65.

Lead researcher Dr Annie Britton at University College London, who carried out the study, said: “I wasn’t shocked to see that alcohol volume changes over the life course, but the high proportion of older men drinking daily is a bit alarming.

“It raises concerns that they are becoming dependent on alcohol and there are risks in this age group mixing alcohol with medications.”

Call to curb junk food and alcohol advertising in Scotland

BBC - 8th March
A "culture of excess" in alcohol and junk food advertising is harming Scotland's health, doctors have warned.

The British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland said regulation was weak, driving obesity and alcohol problems, while the NHS "picks up the pieces".

The BMA has joined calls for stricter licensing, including a ban on TV adverts before the 21:00 watershed.

The Scottish government has written to Westminster calling for the ban, which the Tories branded "a brainless idea".

Tougher regulation

Dr Peter Bennie, chairman of the BMA Scotland, said: "Despite the serious health harms associated with excessive alcohol consumption and obesity in the UK, these industries use marketing to promote consumption of their products.

"The cost of alcohol to our society is significant and, inevitably, the NHS picks up the pieces.

"Obesity rates too are worryingly high, driven by the promotion and availability of unhealthy foods.

"Obesity brings with it increased risk of a wide range of serious life-threatening and chronic diseases. While doctors have a role to play in supporting overweight patients, there is a limit to what they can do.

"The UK government could take decisive action to change the culture of excess that the junk food and alcohol industry promotes, and tougher regulation of advertising would be a positive first step."

Barbara O'Donnell, deputy chief executive at Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: "Although current rules prohibit alcohol advertising around children's programmes, alcohol adverts are allowed during early evening family viewing when the largest number of children watch television."

Children surveyed were more familiar with alcohol brands than biscuits, crisps and ice cream, she added.

'Nanny state'

Control over broadcast advertising is reserved to Westminster.

Scottish Public Health Minister Maureen Watt has written to UK government ministers calling for alcohol and junk food advertising to be prohibited before the TV watershed.

"There is a wealth of research which shows that children seeing these adverts while they are watching their favourite family programmes respond positively towards them and they affect their behaviour," she said.

"That's something that needs to be addressed."

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: "This brainless idea is more evidence of an SNP which thinks state always knows best."

He added: "It's not Nicola Sturgeon's role to act like a deranged head nanny in the SNP's increasingly scary nanny state."

Lords committee calls for new EU alcohol strategy

Drinks Business Review - 9th March

A House of Lords committee is calling European Union (EU) to implement tighter regulations on taxation and labeling, in order to combat alcohol-related harm. This comes as the committee thought that the EU alcohol strategy implemented from 2006 through 2012 did not take effective action in combatting alcohol abuse across all Member States.

According to the Lords report, alcohol abuse is the third highest cause of disease and death in Europe, which records highest alcohol consumption per head.

The liver-deaths rate in the UK has almost quadrupled over the last 40 years.

In a move to tackle these problems, the committee wants the EU to reform its taxation structure, which prevents Member States from raising duties on the most harmful substances, and provides incentives to purchase drinks with higher alcohol contents.

The committee also wants the EU to introduce new rules for alcoholic drinks labeling.

It wants alcoholic drinks labels to include strength, the calorie content, guidelines on safe drinking levels, and a warning about the dangers of drinking when pregnant.

Lords committee chairman Baroness Prashar said: "During our inquiry we heard from manufacturers, retailers and advertisers about the voluntary initiatives they have developed to tackle the harm caused by alcohol abuse. Voluntary action alone is not enough. It must be backed by legislation at EU level, and industry should play a constructive role in bringing this about.

"We also need further cross-border research on alcohol abuse, its effects, and what works to prevent it. The EU is well placed to commission such research, but it was clear during the course of our inquiry that the way this is currently done is unsatisfactory. A more strategic approach is needed in the selection of research topics, and the way research is commissioned, and a clear distinction should be drawn between those conducting the research and those formulating policy."

Tanzania: Research Points Alcohol As Major Gender Based Violence Cause

Tanzania Daily News - 9th March

A GROUPING of over 45,000 member organizations has come up with research findings showing that alcohol is a major contributor to gender-based violence (GBV).

Findings from the research by the IOGTNTO Movement indicates alcohol as being a major risk factor for GBV and thus a tremendous obstacle for women empowerment and freedom, according to Executive Director of Tanzania Media Women Association Ms Valerie Msoka.

Ms Msoka said in Dar es Salaam that three facts from the research conducted by the IOGT-NTO Movement Regional Office and their partners paint the picture of what reality for women and girls in East Africa is like.

She said that one third of East African women say that they have been violated by a man who had used alcohol and a quarter of them say they have been beaten by a man who had used alcohol.

She noted that one out of six East African women have been forced to have sex against their will by men who were alcohol intoxicated.

The IOGT-NTO regional Representative Johan Sundqvist said, "It breaks my heart to say so," adding, "But it is impossible to picture gender equality and empowered women, if they keep being beaten and if they continue to be forced to sexual intercourse."

The figures from 4,600 respondents show figures are even more shocking when considering that a significant number of girls as young as 10-13 report to have been sexually abused by a man under influence of alcohol.

"Seen with the eyes of women and girls, East Africa does have an alcohol problem," noted Sundqvist, adding, "Behind the facts and figures in our study, there's real suffering and pain.

We urge decision-makers in all countries of the region to hear them and resolve to act. Alcohol-fuelled GBV can be prevented!"

A programme officer at IOGT-NTO Movement, Ms Brenda Mkwesha, said, "A significant preventive impact can be achieved by tackling the risk factor alcohol."

She noted that evidence-based, highimpact alcohol policy measures should be part of the prevention interventions, in order to promote gender-equality and end GBV in East Africa.

"Before we can realize the vision of free and empowered women and girls in East Africa, we must ban outrageous alcohol advertising that objectifies, de-humanizes and sexualizes women.

We need to implement and enforce alcohol control laws that limit the availability and affordability of alcohol and that promote health and development," ends Johan Sundqvist.

Drug and alcohol recovery service launches this month

Isle of Wight County Press Online - 9th March

A NEW integrated drug and alcohol recovery service is set to be officially launched by Isle of Wight health bosses.

The Island Recovery Integrated Service (IRIS) brings together the Island Drug and Alcohol Service (IDAS) service previously provided by Isle of Wight NHS Trust, Cranstoun and the Isle of Wight Council’s 'Get Sorted’ service.

IRIS will be accessible from seven locations across the Isle of Wight and will provide personalised treatment which focuses on an individual’s recovery.

The Isle of Wight NHS trust’s contract to provide the service began in October 2014 and will be officially launched on Tuesday, March 17.

There will be a single phone number to access support, one to one and group services as well as support for young people.

In addition, people using the service will be able to get advice and information and help from mentors who have recovered from drug or alcohol problems.

Testing will also be available for blood borne viruses and Hepatitis B vaccinations will be available.

Scientific discovery could bring a cure for binge drinking and alcoholism

The Telegraph - 8th March

Scientists have discovered a natural protein in the brain that could put the brakes on binge drinking, and bring about a cure for alcoholism.

Bingeing is dangerous as vast quantities of alcohol are drunk in a short space of time.

A study by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine found the brain protein can "put the brakes" on binge drinking and even stop some people becoming an alcoholic.

Assistant professor Thomas Kash in the departments of pharmacology and psychology said: "Using a series of genetic and pharmacological approaches we identified how a compound in the brain, Neuropeptide Y (NPY), can suppress this dangerous behaviour.

"Specifically, we found that NPY acted in a part of the brain known as the extended amygdala, or bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, that we know is linked to both stress and reward.

"This anti-drinking effect was due to increasing inhibition (the brakes) on a specific population of cells that produce a 'pro-drinking' molecule called corticotropin releasing factor (CRF).

"When we then mimicked the actions of NPY using engineered proteins, we were also able to suppress binge alcohol drinking in mice.

"Finally, we found that this anti-drinking NPY system is altered by long-term alcohol drinking in multiple species, suggesting that this may be either a marker or treatment for alcohol abuse."

Professor of psychology Todd Thiele added: "The identification of where in the brain and how NPY blunts binge drinking, and the observation that the NPY system is compromised during early binge drinking prior to the transition to dependence, are novel and important observations.

"What is particularly exciting is that these findings suggest that restoring NPY may not only be useful for treating alcohol use disorders, but may also protect some individuals from becoming alcohol dependent."

The study was published online by the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Previous research has demonstrated the role that NPY can have in influencing the desire to drink. A study of mice who lacked NPY receptors found they were less likely to consume alcohol than others who had the receptors.

Other studies have identified other proteins in the brain which appear to influenec the desire to consume alcohol.

A protein called RGS6 (regulator of G protein signalling 6) was found to control alcohol cravings and the likeliood of suffering damage to the heart, liver, and other organs.

Tory chair Grant Shapps hints at Budget cut in alcohol duty

Cityam - 12th March

Tory party chairman Grant Shapps has given a strong indication that there will be an alcohol duty cut on spirits in next week’s crucial pre-election Budget.

Shapps, who also has some ministerial responsibility for trade, com­mented yesterday on the prospect of an alcohol rates cut: “You always have hope when there’s a Budget.Wait and see.”

A Tory insider added: “We’re Tories, we love to cut taxes on things, but you’ll have to wait until next week.”

It is already thought that the Budget will include a reduction of one penny of the price of a pint of beer.

Government sources insist that nothing has been signed off in the Budget yet.

However, Shapps, a known fan of the occasional gin and tonic, is thought to be highly sympathetic to the cause of reducing the duty on spirits, to help UK distillers.

The Conservatives point out that they have already reduced alcohol duty in recent years.

They say a bottle of Scotch whisky is now 42p cheaper than it would have been under plans for a duty escalator that Labour put forward.

Nottingham bars join scheme to cut alcohol-related crime

Bar Magazine - March 10th

Bars, pubs and clubs across Nottingham city centre are signing up to a new Licensed Premises Exclusion Notice Scheme for reducing alcohol-related crime.

Launched by the Nottingham Business Improvement District (BID), it has already brought 100 licensed premises on board, working together to ban prolific offenders from their venues.

Operators that sign up to the scheme are given warning cards which they issue to individuals when they commit an offence on their premises.

If an individual receives two warning cards – or just one if the offence involves violence or drugs – they will be automatically banned from all venues participating in the scheme.

Their information is also circulated to the businesses involved via the Nottingham BID’s secure information sharing system.

Exclusions can be appealed, but only after an incident-free period of six months and providing that the offender has attended an alcohol awareness class run by Last Orders Alcohol Support Services.

Proposed Mill Road Sainsbury's won't sell high-strength alcohol

Cambridge News - 10th March

A new Sainsbury's earmarked for Mill Road will not sell any high-strength alcohol.

The supermarket giant yesterday agreed to a series of extra measures laid down by Cambridge City Council, should the store's proposed move to the existing Mace premises go ahead.

Among the concessions by Sainsbury's – which had initially asked to sell alcohol from 8am until 11pm every day – was a reduction in its Sunday opening times and a ban on selling so-called 'high-strength' beer, lager or cider.

Mill Road is plagued by problems with street drinking and related antisocial behaviour, and members of the council's licensing committee were presented with a petition opposing the store's plan.

South Wales Police are taking a smarter approach to tackling alcohol abuse

Wales Online - 12th March

South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Sophie Howe on the campaign urging people to drink less during the Six Nations: 'Excessive drinking is an issue which public services and other agencies are grappling with due to the misery it can cause and the pressure it puts on our hospitals and our police amongst others. Alcohol-related violent crime ruins lives.

Tackling it is a priority for South Wales Police and we’re taking a smarter approach to reducing violent crime, focusing on the real issues affecting our communities.

Public Health Wales, local heath boards, local authorities and third sector agencies such as St John’s and Alcohol Concern having been working in partnership with us on a range of projects to make our city centres safer. What we all need now is a change in culture.

I recently helped to launch our Know The Score, #DrinkLessEnjoyMore campaign. The message is simple – you’ll have a better night out if you just have a bit less to drink.

People are also reminded that it’s against the law to serve or buy a drink for someone who is clearly drunk.

It’s worth considering that you put yourself at risk, when things go wrong you put pressure on public services, and it’s an appalling truth that there are a minority of people out there just waiting to take advantage of vulnerable people.

Let’s be clear – this is not about victim-blaming. My views of addressing violence against women are well known and I firmly believe that it is the right of us all, men and women, to have a drink without risk of attack.

Rape and sexual assault are never the fault of the victim, regardless of how drunk they may be.

What we want is to make sure that people who do find themselves vulnerable through drink are kept safe and that we have a zero-tolerance approach taking tough action against those that prey on vulnerable people.

We have recently delivered vulnerability awareness training to door staff, taxi marshals and police officers to help identify and know how to respond to people at risk.

Well-trained door staff will now ensure people are steered towards points of safety like the help point in Swansea or alcohol treatment centre in Cardiff, both of which are partnership schemes which the South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner helps to fund.

The help point in Swansea has already helped more than 528 people since it opened in September, the majority of whom are aged 18-24. Around half are considered to be vulnerable and the majority of these are young women.

As part of our work to keep people safe we are also taking a zero-tolerance approach towards the behaviour of people who are best described as sexual predators.

The vulnerability awareness training is resulting in staff spotting those who are actively seeking out the drunkest, most vulnerable person and identifying them to the police.

We believe this has already resulted in potential rapes or sexual assaults being prevented...'

Investigation: Army substance-abuse program in disarray

USA Today - 10th March

Twenty thousand soldiers who seek help each year at Army substance-abuse clinics encounter a program in such disarray that thousands who need treatment are turned away and more than two dozen others linked to poor care have spiraled into suicide, a USA TODAY investigation has found.

The Army's transfer of substance-abuse outpatient treatment from medical to non-medical leadership in 2010 has led to substandard care, the mass exodus of veteran personnel and the hiring of unqualified clinic directors and counselors, according to senior Army clinical staff members and records obtained by USA TODAY.

"This is the crux of the whole thing," said Wanda Kuehr, a psychologist who agreed to speak out about the problems after retiring Feb. 2 as the program's director of clinical services. Non-medical managers want to "get the reports in on time and fill the slots. They think that makes a good program. Our goal is to give treatment to soldiers. And (the bosses) see that as inconsequential ... What's happening to soldiers matters and the Army can't just keep pushing things under the rug."

Five current staff who described similar problems in interviews declined to be identified for fear of Army reprisals. They "are very frightened if they tell the truth they will lose their job," Kuehr says. "It's sad when we have (such) a climate."

The Army emphatically denies that its substance-abuse treatment efforts have declined.

Yet Kuehr and the current personnel said the strongest evidence is in quality-review reports filed by Army clinic reviewers who visit each base, pore through medical files and talk with counselors. Dozens of these reports show chronic problems with poor diagnosis and treatment.

One tragic result: the Army estimates that since 2010, about 90 soldiers committed suicide within three months of receiving substance-abuse treatment. At least 31 suicides followed sub-standard care, according to tabulations by the clinical staff, although they did not specifically link the deaths to poor treatment.

Powdered alcohol gets federal agency’s approval

Associated Press - 11th March

A powdered alcohol intended to be mixed up into drinks has gained approval from a federal agency.

The product, called Palcohol, had received the green light from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau briefly last year before the bureau backtracked and said the label approvals had been given in error.

On Wednesday, bureau spokesman Tom Hogue told the Associated Press the issues were resolved and that four varieties of Palcohol were approved. But Hogue noted that states can also regulate alcohol sales within their borders.

The approval is a step forward for a small company whose product plans have already sparked controversy.

Several states have already moved to ban powdered alcohol, including lawmakers in Colorado who last month advanced legislation to temporarily halt its sale. Concerns have included abuse by minors and whether Palcohol’s light weight would make it easy to sneak alcohol into public events.

Palcohol would come in a pouch, with water being added to the powder inside for the equivalent of an alcoholic drink.

A statement on the Palcohol website says the company hopes to have the product for sale this summer. Palcohol founder Mark Phillips noted the approval of his product in an email early Wednesday, but wasn’t immediately available for further comment.

Hogue said the bureau’s evaluation is centered on whether labels accurately reflect what’s in the product.

“Potential for abuse isn’t grounds for us to deny a label,” he said.

Previously, Phillips had said he came up with the idea for Palcohol because he wanted a way to enjoy alcoholic drinks after hiking or other activities without having to lug around heavy bottles.





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