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

01 February 2017



View this email in your browser
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.
Poverty harms health more than obesity or alcohol

Being poor is a bigger health risk than being fat or having high blood pressure, a major study has concluded.

Politicians are being urged to take low socioeconomic status into account when forming health policies after a study of 1.7 million people found that it was a big risk factor for ill health and early death.

Poorer people’s life expectancy was reduced by 2.1 years, greater than the reductions associated with high blood pressure, obesity and high alcohol consumption, of 1.6, 0.7 and 0.5 years respectively. Being inactive reduced life expectancy by 2.4 years, and smoking and diabetes by 4.8 and 3.9 years.

The study is the first to compare the impact of low socioeconomic status on health with other major risk factors. It used participants’ job titles to estimate their wealth. Over the course of the study, participants with low socioeconomic status were almost 1.5 times more likely to die than their wealthier counterparts.

Silvia Stringhini, of Lausanne University Hospital, Switzerland, and lead author of the paper, said: “Given the huge impact of socioeconomic status on health, it’s vital that governments accept it as a major risk factor and stop excluding it from health policy. Reducing poverty, improving education and creating safe home, school and work environments are central to overcoming the impact of socioeconomic deprivation. By doing this, socioeconomic status could be targeted and improved, leading to better wealth and health for many.”

The other risk factors are included in the World Health Organisation’s plan to reduce non-communicable diseases by a quarter by 2025. Dr Stringhini added: “Only part of the effect of low socioeconomic status on mortality is explained by the fact that individuals with a low socioeconomic status have a higher prevalence of the other risk factors.

“From what we know from other studies, individuals with a low socioeconomic status are more likely to suffer poor health for several reasons, among others: the conditions to which they have been exposed in early life, their higher exposure to environmental toxins, their higher prevalence of health risk behaviours, their higher psychosocial stress and lack of social support, their lower access to and use of healthcare services.”

The link between being poor and dying early was consistent across all causes of death, including cancer, whereas the association between other risk factors and dying early was strongest for deaths from heart and lung disease.
Paolo Vineis, of Imperial College London, a senior author on the paper, said: “Socioeconomic status is important because it is a summary measure of lifetime exposures to hazardous circumstances and behaviours that goes beyond the risk factors for non-communicable diseases that policies usually address.”

The study, in The Lancet, used data from the UK, France, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, the United States and Australia.

Source: The Times, 01 February 2017
Supermarkets expect record alcohol sales after dry January
  • Supermarkets are getting ready for record sales as shoppers raise a drink to the end of Dry January
  • Sainsbury's is anticipating a spike in sales of alcohol today as people break their fast early
  • An estimated two million people across Britain spent the month teetotal
It is expected to be one of 2017’s biggest days of alcohol supermarket sales as abstainers call time early on Dry January. Sainsbury’s predicts sales of wines, beers and spirits will shoot through the roof today as non-drinkers break their fast a few days early. An estimated two million people across Britain went teetotal this month. The campaign is supported by Alcohol Concern and seen as an opportunity for imbibers to take a break from booze following the festive period and review drinking habits.
Last year, purchases on the last Sunday of January –which fell on the 31st – made up 14 per cent of the entire month’s alcohol sales.
It is expected that purchases of drink today will be double quantities sold in the first Sunday of the month. White wine is anticipated to be the top tipple for those breaking the dry spell, according to analysis of the last two year’s of Sainsbury’s data, followed by lager. The leading spirit sold will be whisky, chased by vodka and gin.
Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury’s Brand, said: ‘With four weeks of good habits under our belts already it’s no wonder that Britons are keen to treat themselves this weekend.
‘Even if it does mean breaking those Dry January pledges with a few days to go!’

Although still wine remains the drink of choice to break their booze fast, Sainsbury’s has also noticed an emerging trend for champagne and sparkling wine. Almost a million more bottles were sold in January 2016 compared to the previous year, and latest sales figures show the rise is continuing.

Source: Daily Mail, 29 January 2017
Never Mind Dry January, We Should Probably All Give Up Alcohol

The new inconvenient truth is that we should probably all give up alcohol - for good. Most of us will have a friend attempting Dry January, swerving the demon drink for a month for varying reasons: to live more healthily, assuage festive guilt, avoid hangovers, save money or prove their willpower. Looking at the array of benefits, it makes perfect sense to stop drinking, doesn’t it?

Well, yes, but it won’t happen because alcohol permeates every aspect of our lives and has done so since time immemorial. For many of us, whether we are meeting with triumph or disaster, we treat those two imposters just the same - with alcohol. There is no such thing as a healthy drinking regime, with glowing twentysomething lifestyle bloggers extolling the detoxifying virtues of the single-estate gin diet.

When the alcohol guidelines were tightened at the start of January 2016 to 14 units for men and women (the limit for men was previously 21), there was an accompanying warning that consuming any amount of alcohol is unsafe. In truth, we all probably knew that. But we act with impunity, convincing ourselves that everyone drinks and they probably have more than us.

While a war has been declared on sugar, no such pressure is being put on alcohol. The voices in favour of minimum pricing, which has been rejected by the UK government, largely belong to health groups, the equivalent of the friend who doesn’t drink - you respect their views and they are probably right, but you’re having too much fun drinking to listen. Even warnings that 135,000 people will die of alcohol-related cancers in England by 2035 are insufficient to make teetotalism more than a niche lifestyle choice.

Alcohol can justifiably be described as the world’s most easily accessible mild poison. Its predominant ingredient, ethanol, is listed as a group one carcinogen by the World Health Organisation, along with asbestos, diesel fumes and radiation. But booze can still be bought for as little as 16p a unit. Even the ever-increasing prices of alcoholic beverages in pubs have not yet put people off; a pint of decent beer at my local costs about £5.50 and I fear I would probably shell out for it even if the price rose to £7, because it’s such an integral part of learned socialising.

There are signs that the tide may be turning in some areas. Drinking among young people (under the legal age) is falling, suggesting a number of things; they are altering their states of mind in other ways, or the persistent warnings about the malign effects of alcohol consumption are beginning to make headway. Nevertheless, “harmful drinking” has been identified among middle-class people in their 50s, supporting the hypothesis that older generations set the standard for Britons’ relationship with alcohol - a damaging one.

Source: Huffington Post UK , 27 January 2017
8000 high risk drinkers died without accessing treatment

Thousands of high risk drinkers died in Wales without accessing alcohol treatment services despite repeated hospital admission, a report has found.

Almost 8,000 people died from alcohol-related causes between 2005 and 2014, a third of which were aged under 50
An alcohol treatment assessment was recorded for less than a quarter of those deaths even though most deaths are after years of heavy drinking.

Public Health Wales said this was down to "cultural and service barriers".

The report showed out of 7,901 alcohol-related deaths between 2005 and 2014, 94% of people had previously been admitted to hospital or A&E.

Public Health Wales (PHW) is now leading the call for people to recognise when their drinking may be starting to cause a problem - and act by getting help earlier.

Labels and stigma
Josie Smith, programme and national lead for substance misuse at PHW, said: "We knew anecdotally, and now from the findings of this report, that not enough people are seeking help for their problems with alcohol.

"People may feel that they do not want to seek support to reduce their drinking due to fear of being labelled an alcoholic, or thinking that they may have to stop drinking altogether.
"We need to break down the stigma and talk more openly and earlier to those that can offer help about any concerns."
Ms Smith added the results of the report are "especially pertinent" as Dry January draws to a close and "some people return to their usual alcohol consumption".

Source: BBC News, 31 January 2017

Fears over alcohol home deliveries as first city-wide firm launches in Scotland

CAMPAIGNERS have called on the Scottish Government to tighten the rules on how drink can be sold following the launch of the first city-wide alcoholic drink home delivery service. launches today in Edinburgh offering beers, wines and spirits delivered to customers’ doors within one hour.

The service, which requires age identification and a credit card to access, is offering craft beers and high-end spirits. It has been successfully operating in a limited area in the capital until now.

However, Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, called for the service should be closely monitored.
She said: “There is no shortage of places to buy alcohol in Edinburgh and online alcohol sales are making it even easier for people to drink at home.” In the next phase of its alcohol strategy, the Scottish Government must set out plans to make alcohol less readily available, and this should include online sales.

“The more alcohol is available, the more health and social problems we experience.”

Source: The Herald, 31 January 2017

Inside Track: Time to relax alcohol ban at football grounds

SCOTTISH football fans are used to being at the whim of the authorities, whether it is being herded like cattle or being subject to ill-thought out legislation such as the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act.

In England, since 1985 stadiums can sell alcohol up to 15 minutes before kick-off and at half time. Scottish football fans were banned from drinking alcohol in grounds after the 1980 Scottish Cup final between Rangers and Celtic, where authorities deemed it to be the cause of the pitch invasions and violence.

England has had its share of fan trouble over the years, too. In the 2015-16 season, there were 2,000 football related arrests, a slight increase for the first time in three years; yet there is no rush to change the law. Why are English football fans treated differently to Scottish football fans?

In 2015 Scottish Labour called for the sale of alcohol to be introduced into Scottish stadiums. When pressed about the issue, then social justice secretary Alex Neil said: “We don’t believe now is the right time to reintroduce alcohol into football.” The minister could have done with a reality check if he believed that alcohol was not already a feature for fans of Scottish football. Drinking and going to the football is a well-trodden path, irrespective of the alcohol ban in stadiums.
Mr Neil said he wished to keep football a “family game”, and maintaining the law at present would ensure that. Yet when rugby is played at Murrayfield, supporters are free to purchase alcohol and enjoy it in full view of the pitch. Does this mean that rugby could not be considered to be a “family game”?

Selling alcohol in the concourse area of football grounds could help both police and fans alike. If fans knew they were able to have a pint or two in the ground before the match, they wouldn’t have to stay in the pub or on the bus and drink to excess before entering the ground, reducing the chance of alcohol-related arrests outside the ground or on the bus. Similarly, if they were able to have a pint at half time, it would give people less incentive to smuggle alcohol in with them, again cutting down the number of potential offenders.

An example to look at would be Celtic Park. For years, smoking in the toilets at half-time has been an issue at Parkhead, as it has at other stadiums. However this season the club has allowed supporters to leave the ground at half-time to smoke, meaning that the toilets are smoke-free. Fans do not have to be treated like disobedient children.

In England you can enter the ground before the game starts so it’s not overly busy, in full knowledge you can enjoy a pint on the other side. You can’t have your drink within full view of the pitch but you can have one at half time, and in some cases for a brief period after the match, not having to rush yourself onto a packed train.

In a survey conducted last September by Supporters Direct Scotland, 67 per cent of the 14,500 fans asked were in favour of introducing the sale of alcohol in Scottish football grounds. It’s time for the Government to abandon this law and give Scottish football fans the same opportunities available to those at Murrayfield and those in England.

Source: The Herald, 26 January 2017
Plain packaging and graphic warnings will 'crush' craft drinks, says gin master

It’s enough to make Jared Brown spill his drink. The co-founder and master distiller behind Sipsmith, the micro-distillery in the vanguard of the craft gin movement in the UK, is contemplating the possibility of graphic warning photographs and plain packaging appearing on bottles of alcohol, akin to the restrictions on tobacco that assume full force in May.

“Are they considering similar labels for bacon? Fish and chips? Crisps?” he demands. “It’s an absurdity. It will crush the craft side of the industry. It will shift the business back to the industrial producers, who will be very happy to move people back to mass-produced drinks. If something like this comes through we won’t be able to weather it.”

In December, a report from the government advisory body Public Health England suggested that bottles of alcohol could be sold in plain packaging and carry larger health warnings, including photographic warning labels. This month, public health groups called for a ban on all alcohol advertising in the UK and a study published last week by the University of Liverpool recommended placing warning labels on the front of bottles and using plain packaging to emphasise the risks associated with excessive drinking.

Under current arrangements, there are no mandatory requirements for alcohol labelling, although a voluntary “responsibility deal” requires the drinks industry to include warning labels indicating the unit alcohol content, the chief medical officer’s alcohol guidelines and a pregnancy warning. For some campaigners and health professionals, self-regulation and the use of labels with questionable effectiveness is not enough.

“There’s been a long and sorry history of the drinks industry drawing up voluntary agreements with government and failing to deliver,” said Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, who chairs the Alcohol Health Alliance. “There needs to be proper balanced information about the calorie content, health risks and guidelines. The public has a right to know that there is a significant link between alcohol and some cancers.”

Sarah Hanratty, interim chief executive of the Portman Group, which administers the industry’s code of practice and set up the Drinkaware website, argues that self-regulation does have teeth. “There are strong commercial sanctions for companies that break the rules and products can be removed from shelves,” she said. “Banning alcohol marketing or calling for plain packaging is not the answer and will only serve to damage Britain’s thriving creative industries.”

One industry that has already voiced alarm at the possibility of plain packaging and warning labels is the design sector. “What would a beautiful bar look like if the back bar was all plain packaging?” asked designer and brand consultant Ron Cregan, who has worked in the industry for over 25 years. “Would the iconic shape of the champagne bottle have to change?”

Cregan is so alarmed that he has got together with like-minded professionals to form a group called Endangered Species to respond to the challenges that may lie ahead: “This has been on my radar for the last 15 years. We’re trying to create a forum so that when it comes to the table we can have a debate. We need to gather our best brains,” he said. “It goes to who we are and how we live and celebrate life. I want to live in a world that’s culturally and socially rich. There’s a kind of semi-religious tone to this. It’s highly sanctimonious.”
Source: The Guardian, 28 January 2017
The 9000 year old history of humans and alcohol

•           The earliest proof of an alcoholic beverage dates back to China 9,000 years ago
•           It was a mixed drink of fermented rice, honey, hawthorn fruit and/or grape 
•           Our primate ancestors first started consuming alcohol via fermented fruit
•           Humans have evolved to consume alcohol - and we even have a gene that makes it possible for us to digest it faster

Researchers have found that humans have had a long history of consuming alcohol - with the earliest proof of an alcoholic beverage dating back to Northern China 9,000 years ago.
The 'cocktail' was a mixed drink of fermented rice, honey, hawthorn fruit and/or grape.

A feature in the February issue of the National Geographic magazine traces back the history of alcohol consumption, revealing we even have a gene that makes it possible to digest alcohol faster.

Throughout history, the consumption of alcohol may have helped people become more creative, advancing the development of language, art and religion. This is because alcohol lowers inhibitions and makes people feel more spiritual.Even the Inca consumed alcohol in the form of chicha - a corn based beer mixed with strawberries that's still consumed today - although the Inca often used mind-altering herbs instead of strawberries.

All alcoholic drinks are made by yeasts - tiny single-celled life forms that consume sugar and break it down into carbon dioxide and ethanol.Ethanol is the only type of alcoholic compound that is drinkable - other types, like methanol, are found in windshield washing fluids and de-icers for cars.
There are many different types of yeast, and they've probably been fermenting fruit for 120 million years - when fruits first arose on Earth.

Many human enjoy drinking alcohol because it makes us feel good - it releases serotonin and dopamine in the brain which reduces anxiety and make us feel happy.
But our primate ancestors who relied on a largely fruit based diets had other reasons to seek out alcohol.
The alcohol smelled strong, which helped them find fruit more easily,

Dr Robert Dudley, a physiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, told National Geographic that he call this the 'drunken monkey' hypothesis.
He said: 'If you can smell the alcohol and get to the fruit faster, you have an advantage.'

'You defeat the competition and get more calories,' he said.
Source: Daily Mail, 27 January 2017

Women's Prize for Fiction: Baileys withdraws sponsorship
Baileys is to withdraw its sponsorship of the Women's Prize for Fiction. The company said it "regretfully decided to make way for a new sponsor" in order to work on new global projects. Baileys will still sponsor this year's award but the prize will search for a new commercial partner from 2018.
Syl Saller, chief marketing officer at Diageo, which owns Baileys, said: "It has been an honour to champion the very best fiction written by women."

She added the company would now look to increase its promotional activities "across both English and non-English speaking markets".

"We look forward to making 2017 an exceptional year. Baileys will remain a staunch advocate for the prize," Saller said.

What is the Women's Prize for Fiction?
  • The Women's Prize for Fiction is awarded annually to what judges consider the best novel of the year written in English by a female author
  • It was co-founded by author Kate Mosse, who believed female authors were often overlooked for major literary prizes
  • Previous winners of the prize, which has been running since 1996, include Zadie Smith, Ali Smith, Lionel Shriver and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Orange sponsored the award for 17 years before Baileys took over in 2014
  • The current judging panel includes Tessa Ross (chair), Katie Derham and Sara Pascoe
  • The winning author receives £30,000 in prize money
Source: BBC News, 30 January 2017

Travel insurance and the definition of 'heavy drinking'

An email I received this week from a PR company was titled as follows: “Three ways to make sure a travel insurance claim is paid.” The company was representing CEGA, which runs medical, security and claims services for many leading travel insurers.

Issues with travel insurance are among the most frequent topics of concern among readers who write to our “Ask the experts” team – either because they are having trouble finding a suitable policy at a reasonable premium, or because they have had a claim rejected.

CEGA’s three points really boiled down to two: one connected with pre-existing medical conditions, the other with an issue that has long concerned me – the alcohol exclusion on travel insurance policies.

Drinking on holiday
CEGA’s advice is not to drink “excessively” on holiday because: “If an accident follows a session of heavy drinking, any related travel insurance claim may well be turned down.” It attempts to offer a little more precision: “… with most insurance cover there’s no need to be teetotal on holiday – just be moderate.” But what exactly does that mean?
I do think that subjective words such as “moderate”, “excessive” and “heavy” beg far more questions than they answer. The exclusion and similar vague terminology is in the small print of nearly all travel insurance policies and I think it is wrong that customers should be left facing potentially huge costs because insurers want to keep their options open. Is half a bottle with a meal “moderate”? What if two diners share a bottle and one drinks more than the other? And what if he or she had a strong gin and tonic beforehand, and a whisky or two afterwards? You are on holiday, after all. Insurers either need to put a precise – and generous – blood-alcohol limit on policies, or stop imposing vague, subjective conditions.
Source: The Telegraph, 31 January 2017
Price of a pint in Ireland is 75 per cent more expensive than the European average

PEOPLE in Ireland are paying 75 per cent more on alcohol than their average European neighbour, new figures have revealed.

Data published by Eurostat, the official statistics office of the EU, further shows that the price of a pint in Ireland is the highest in the European Union.

The study looked at prices of food, tobacco, non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks across the EU members states.
It found that in 2016 the price of a shopping basket of food was over twice as high in the most expensive country Switzerland, as it was in the cheapest, Poland.
Ireland was the eighth most expensive country overall for food, dropping from fourth in 2015.

Food in Britain was the 12th most expensive.
For fruit and vegetables, including potatoes, Ireland was the third most expensive country in the EU falling below only Switzerland and Denmark.

Britain came eighth on the list. Ireland also ranked third most expensive for the cost of non-alcoholic drinks, with Britain close behind in fourth place.

While Ireland’s alcohol pricing is at the top end of the scale, Denmark dominated the rest of the ‘most expensive’ lists.
In all four categories – food, non-alcoholic beverages, alcoholic beverages and tobacco – the Republic of Macedonia was cheapest, although the country is yet to officially become a European member state.

Elsewhere, Britain is the most expensive country in Europe for tobacco and cigarettes. Overall, Ireland is the seventh most expensive country for food, tobacco and beverages, with Britain slightly cheaper in 10th place.

Source: Irish Post, 30 January 2017


This email was sent to
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems · 12 Queen Street · Edinburgh, EH2 1JQ · United Kingdom

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp