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

24 March 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.

Alcohol is so cheap in parts of Wales that you can drink a week's recommended intake for juts £2

Alcohol is so cheap in some parts of Wales that you can drink a week’s recommended intake for just £2, it has been revealed.

A new study by Alcohol Concern Cymru conducted a survey of supermarkets and off-licences in six towns and cities across Wales.

It found that drinks such as cider are on sale for as little as 15.5p per unit in Wales.

It means that 14 units – the maximum amount the UK’s Chief Medical Officers recommend any of us drink in a week – could be purchased for as little as £2.17.

Alcohol Concern Cymru claims introducing a minimum unit price of 50p will protect heavy drinkers and save the NHS time and money.

Alcohol Concern Cymru’s Mark Leyshon said: “The health harms caused by alcohol remain one of the biggest problems facing Wales, and our hospitals handle as many as 1,000 admissions related to alcohol each week.

“Many of these illnesses and injuries are linked to cheap alcohol sold in the off-trade – in supermarkets and off-licences – at prices far below those in pubs.

“Typically it’s heavy drinkers who favour low-price alcohol, meaning that it is the cheapest alcohol on the market that is bought and consumed in the greatest quantities and which causes the greatest harm.

“Introducing a minimum unit price would bring a significant reduction in alcohol harms, by changing the drinking behaviours of this group without penalising moderate drinkers. It’s high time to get minimum unit pricing on the statute book for the benefit of all of us.”

Shops in Bangor, Carmarthen, Mold, Penarth, Pontypool and Rhyl were visited in the study which ran throughout January.

In total 113 different alcoholic products on sale for under 50p per unit were identified in just 18 different stores.

The report stated: “Cider (and perry) represented all of those products at the very cheapest end of the scale.

“However it is important to note that the researchers also found many examples of other alcohol types, including lagers, wines and spirits, on sale in the 25p-49p per unit price bracket.”

According to the Welsh Health Survey, 40% of adults in Wales said they had drank more than the recommended guidelines in the past week.

Another recent study revealed that almost one in seven adults (14%) in Wales admitted to drinking 14 units of alcohol in a single day – the equivalent of six pints of 4% beer or six 175ml glasses of 13% wine.

Experts say this level of drinking significantly increases their risk of developing alcohol-related conditions including, liver disease and cancer of the breast, mouth and throat.

In last week’s Budget Chancellor George Osborne announced a duty freeze on beer, spirits and most ciders.

Source: Wales online, 24th March
 

SNP's position on reducing harm caused by alcohol undermined from within

Regardless of what happens with alcohol duties in today’s Budget, it is unlikely that SNP votes will be crucial to the outcome. It is nonetheless important that, in an Agenda article, SNP MP Brendan O’Hara wrote in support of the Scotch Whisky Association's (SWA) call to reduce spirits duty and the rest of the party appears to be in support.

It’s important and surprising in view of the SNP’s longstanding acceptance of the importance of alcohol price on the rates of harm individuals and families experience from alcohol. This analysis has been a keystone of Scottish Government policy for the past eight years. At the Global Alcohol Policy Conference in Edinburgh last year, the First Minister emphasised that Scottish Government policy has been based on the best international evidence, in line with the World Health Organisation’s advice, and Nicola Sturgeon received plaudits from the assembled academics and campaigners. Mr O’Hara’s position undermines that approach and some of the progress made in reducing alcohol harm in Scotland.

A duty cut that reduces the price of the high-end malts Mr O’Hara writes about reduces the price of all spirits. Vodka has outsold whisky for many years and cheap vodka together with white cider, dominates the consumption of patients seen in our clinics, hospital beds and A&E departments. A price reduction of 15p a bottle will be more significant to the heavy consumers of these products than the “sensible moderate drinkers” Mr O’Hara referred to.

Why would the SWA support a measure whose impact is likely to be greatest at the other end of the market from the brands it champions? The spirits industry is dominated by a few conglomerates with just as much interest in vodka as whisky. When discussing the SWA’s opposition to Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP), Alex Salmond, then First Minister, said : “I do not believe the Scotch Whisky Association’s motivation is about whisky, it’s about cheap vodka. They say not, but I do not find their arguments convincing.” I think he was right and that the same motives are still at play, with the SWA acting as the respectable face of the broader spirits industry.

An argument that a duty cut will benefit “sensible” drinkers while no attention is paid to the impact on the consumption of the heaviest drinkers is disingenuous. The organisation I chair, representing the Scottish Medical and Nursing Royal Colleges, has championed MUP since 2007. MUP legislation passed without opposition in Holyrood almost four years ago and has been tied up in legal red tape by the Scotch whisky industry since. We proposed MUP because it was the best targeted measure to affect the cheapest products overwhelmingly consumed by the heaviest drinkers who experience the greatest harm. Raising excise duties is a less targeted measure but it does produce health benefits and is complementary to MUP.

Institute of Fiscal Studies analysis shows that spirits duty is around 30 per cent less in real terms than in the early 1980s and that alcohol duties' contribution to total tax take has reduced sharply over the same period. After a 10-year reduction in duty, Alistair Darling introduced in 2008 a system to increase alcohol duty rates year on year: the alcohol duty escalator. George Osborne scrapped it in 2014. Between 2008 and 2014, there were substantial falls in in alcohol deaths, a trend we have seen reverse in the past two years since the end of the duty escalator. Alcohol price is a very important factor in determining alcohol harm and alcohol duties are a key element.

According to the industry, tax represents 76 per cent of the price of a bottle of whisky. The figure includes VAT. There are products where a strong case can be made for exemption from VAT. I would like to hear any justification that distilled spirits should be one. Excise duty on a 70cl bottle of 40 per cent spirits is £7.75. Of the brands championed by MPs last week, the lowest cost appears to be an Islay malt at £33.50. Excise duty makes up 23 per cent of the cost. Trade briefings need to taken with a pinch of salt.

Alcohol duties are important and their effects need to be considered in the round.

Dr Rice is chairman of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems and honorary consultant psychiatrist at NHS Tayside.

Source: Herald Scotland, 16th March
 

Cheap supermarket booze is costing us dear 

Can our big supermarkets really claim to be “responsible retailers” when it comes to how they sell alcohol? Around three-quarters of all alcohol drunk in Scotland is now bought from off-licences – mainly supermarkets. This shift to people drinking at home rather than in the pub has been driven by supermarkets selling alcohol at such low prices that pubs simply can’t compete.

Supermarkets dedicate a huge amount of shelf space to alcohol – “pile it high, sell it cheap” seems to be their philosophy. While supermarkets are no longer allowed to display alcohol across the store, shoppers still have to walk past the alcohol aisles to get to essentials like bread and milk. These shoppers include children who can’t legally buy alcohol, people who are alcohol dependent and people recovering from alcohol problems.

Given that alcohol is an age-restricted, addictive product that causes a great deal of harm, perhaps it’s time to think about selling it from a completely separate area within a store, as is the case with tobacco products. Other countries go further and have specialist alcohol retailers. In Sweden, for example, the government-owned Systembolaget is the only retail store allowed to sell alcoholic drinks stronger than 3.5 per cent alcohol by volume.

Supermarkets claim to be responsible retailers but some of the products they stock suggests otherwise. Who do drinks like Berry Daiquiri pouches or shots of Vodka Mix Strawberries & Cream appeal to? “Responsible drinkers” as the producers and retailers claim – or teenage girls? What about super strength lager and strong white cider? Addiction services say these are typically drunk by our heaviest drinkers, often those in our most deprived communities.

In terms of sales, vodka, not whisky, is Scotland’s national drink. It’s cheap vodka that the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is defending by taking the Scottish Government to court over minimum pricing. The majority of the SWA’s members are global producers who make huge profits from drinks other than whisky. It remains to be seen whether the SWA’s legal challenge to minimum pricing – a policy which enjoys widespread public and political support – damages their reputation. In the long-term surely the “iconic” image of Scotch is better served by being on the side of responsible pricing, not in defending cheap vodka and cider?

Politicians across the Scottish Parliament understood the evidence linking price, consumption and harm when they passed minimum unit pricing legislation. It is a targeted measure which will increase the price of the cheapest, strongest, most harmful drinks in corner shops and supermarkets. Pubs will not be affected by minimum pricing as their drinks already cost more than 50p per unit.

While minimum pricing has been delayed, on average 22 Scots have died because of alcohol every single week. It’s people living in our most deprived communities who suffer the most; they are eight times more likely to need hospital treatment and six times more likely to die because of alcohol.

The other tool available to increase the price of alcohol is to increase excise duty. This is not a substitute for minimum unit pricing which is targeted at the cheapest end of the market, but it is an important and complementary measure. Excise duty is reserved to Westminster and it was really disappointing that the Chancellor froze duty on beer, cider and spirits in the recent Budget. This simply doesn’t make sense when there is so much pressure on our NHS and other public services.

Governments have a duty to protect and improve the health of their citizens, and that includes taking action against harmful practices by big business. The Scottish Government is to be applauded for its efforts to implement minimum pricing but by freezing alcohol duty, the UK government has failed to play its part.

Read more: http://www.scotsman.com/news/cheap-supermarket-booze-is-costing-us-dear-1-4079341#ixzz43pE7ADnM
Follow us: @TheScotsman on Twitter | TheScotsmanNewspaper on Facebook
Governments have a duty to protect and improve the health of their citizens, and that includes taking action against harmful practices by big business. The Scottish Government is to be applauded for its efforts to implement minimum pricing but by freezing alcohol duty, the UK government has failed to play its part.

Read more: http://www.scotsman.com/news/cheap-supermarket-booze-is-costing-us-dear-1-4079341#ixzz43pE7ADnM
Follow us: @TheScotsman on Twitter | TheScotsmanNewspaper on Facebook
Governments have a duty to protect and improve the health of their citizens, and that includes taking action against harmful practices by big business. The Scottish Government is to be applauded for its efforts to implement minimum pricing but by freezing alcohol duty, the UK government has failed to play its part.

Read more: http://www.scotsman.com/news/cheap-supermarket-booze-is-costing-us-dear-1-4079341#ixzz43pE7ADnM
Follow us: @TheScotsman on Twitter | TheScotsmanNewspaper on Facebook
Governments have a duty to protect and improve the health of their citizens, and that includes taking action against harmful practices by big business. The Scottish Government is to be applauded for its efforts to implement minimum pricing but by freezing alcohol duty, the UK government has failed to play its part.

Read more: http://www.scotsman.com/news/cheap-supermarket-booze-is-costing-us-dear-1-4079341#ixzz43pE7ADnM
Follow us: @TheScotsman on Twitter | TheScotsmanNewspaper on Facebook
Governments have a duty to protect and improve the health of their citizens, and that includes taking action against harmful practices by big business. The Scottish Government is to be applauded for its efforts to implement minimum pricing but by freezing alcohol duty, the UK government has failed to play its part.

Read more: http://www.scotsman.com/news/cheap-supermarket-booze-is-costing-us-dear-1-4079341#ixzz43pE7ADnM
Follow us: @TheScotsman on Twitter | TheScotsmanNewspaper on Facebook
Governments have a duty to protect and improve the health of their citizens, and that includes taking action against harmful practices by big business. The Scottish Government is to be applauded for its efforts to implement minimum pricing but by freezing alcohol duty, the UK government has failed to play its part.

Read more: http://www.scotsman.com/news/cheap-supermarket-booze-is-costing-us-dear-1-4079341#ixzz43pE7ADnM
Follow us: @TheScotsman on Twitter | TheScotsmanNewspaper on Facebook

Source: The Scotsman, 22nd March
 

Studies showing benefits of alcohol consumption 'flawed'

Research that purport to show the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption are flawed and biased, a new study has revealed.

An analysis of 87 studies that concluded that moderate drinking can reduce the risk of heart disease and have other benefits were found to be poorly designed and biased, researchers have found.

Many suggest a positive effect of alcohol consumption when it was likely none existed, scientists at the University of Victoria, Canada found.

A key issue was the way authors defined "abstainers" who provided the vital comparisons from which conclusions about the health effects of alcohol could be made.

Often, studies compared "moderate" drinkers who consumed up to two drinks per day with "current" abstainers.

However, the abstainer group could include people who had cut out alcohol because of poor health, it was claimed.

Dr Tim Stockwell, director of the university's Centre for Addictions Research in British Columbia, found that when the team corrected abstainer biases and other study design issues, moderate drinkers no longer showed a longevity advantage.

Only 13 of the 87 studies avoided biasing the abstainer comparison group, and none of these showed any health benefit associated with moderate alcohol consumption.

"There's a general idea out there that alcohol is good for us, because that's what you hear reported all the time, but there are many reasons to be sceptical," Dr Stockwell said.

Source: STV News, 22nd March
 

Burger King gets permission to sell alcohol in its UK branches

Burger King has been given permission to sell booze alongside its traditional fast food menu in the UK for the first time.

The restaurant chain's branch in Waterloo Station has been given the thumbs up by Lambeth Council to begin selling alcoholic beverages.

There are a few rules that the store must abide by, however.

Beer - the only alcoholic beverage that will be sold - will be served only from 11am until 8pm.

It must not be any stronger than 5%, and must be drank on the premises.

When granting the licence, Lambeth Council imposed extra rules including better staff training, increased record keeping, better CCTV, and increased management supervisioHowever the fast food chain hopes the London restaurant will be just the first in the country to be allowed to sell boozeBosses want to sell alcohol in Burger King restaurants all around the country.

However the fast food chain hopes the London restaurant will be just the first in the country to be allowed to sell booze.

Bosses want to sell alcohol in Burger King restaurants all around the country.

Earlier this year Burger King extended its delivery service to 42 restaurants across the UK.

Source: Daily Mirror, 19th March
 

Alcohol - how much is too much?

This year the Government updated their alcohol guidelines for the first time in 20 years - they recommend the maximum amount of alcohol we should be drinking per week. It’s now just 14 units for men AND women - that's about 6 medium glasses of wine.

With nearly 30 million Brits drinking some alcohol in a typical week, Jonathan Maitland, reporting for the Tonight programme, asks How Much Is Too Much? when it comes to alcohol.

Jonathan hosts his very own pub quiz and invites a cross section of drinkers along to discuss what they actually know about the new recommended limits. Dr Ranj Singh is on hand to provide the answers.
 

The group behind the guidelines have decided that actually no level of alcohol can be considered to be one hundred percent safe.”

– Dr Ranj Singh

The updated guidelines highlight the increased risk of developing serious illness with regular drinking, which includes several cancers.

Janet Forster shares her story of being diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, with no family history of the disease it came as a complete shock. Although her cancer was never linked to alcohol, she wants to raise awareness of the link.

just want people to be aware of the effect alcohol can have especially linked to cancer… moderation is the key.”

– Janet Forster

Fortunately, Janet’s cancer was caught early and after 12 months of intensive treatment she was given the all clear.

Finally, Jonathan Maitland explores the drink-driving limits in Britain, which have remained untouched in England and Wales for nearly 50 years. Scotland lowered their legal limit by nearly 40 per cent in 2014.

At a driving simulator, Jonathan gets behind the wheel of an adopted family car to drive it at both the legal Scottish drink-driving limit and the higher English and Welsh drink-driving limit, with the test coming to a dramatic conclusion.

Watch Alcohol - How Much Is Too Much? on ITV at 7.30 pm

 
Source: ITV News, 17th  March
 

The smell of alcohol can affect behaviour

Source: Medical News Today, 21st March
 

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