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

25 February 2016
 

#MUPsaveslives

 

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

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

Predicted impact of different alcohol taxation and pricing policies on health inequalities

Alcohol-content-based taxation or minimum unit pricing (MUP) are both predicted to reduce health inequalities more than taxation based on product value (ad valorem taxes) or alcohol tax increases under the current system (excise duty plus value added tax) in England, according to research published this week in PLOS Medicine. Petra Meier of the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, and colleagues, used the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (SAPM), to estimate how price changes would affect individual-level alcohol consumption and how consumption changes affect the illnesses and deaths associated with 43 alcohol-attributable conditions.

Professor Meier and colleagues used the SAPM to simulate the impact of four different alcohol taxation and pricing policies: increasing tax under the current system, value-based taxation, alcohol-content-based taxation, and minimum unit pricing, each scaled to produce the same population-wide 4.3% decrease in alcohol-related mortality. They found that impacts of policy changes on moderate drinkers were small, regardless of socioeconomic group. However, among heavy drinkers, alcohol-content-based taxation and MUP were predicted to cause greater decreases in alcohol-attributable mortality among lower income groups (6.1% and 7.8% for alcohol-content-based taxation and MUP), compared to mortality decreases under the current policy or ad valorem taxes (of 3.2% and 2.9%, respectively). Among heavy drinkers in the highest socioeconomic group the effects on mortality rates were small (-1.3%, -1.4%, +0.2%, and +0.8% for increases in current duty rates, ad valorem tax, alcohol-content-based taxation and MUP, respectively).

Due to an absence of evidence, the researchers were not able to measure the impact of any tax avoidance, which could potentially vary between the policies. However, the authors conclude that "If achieving reductions in health inequalities is a priority, then the two policy options that target cheap, high-strength alcohol -- minimum unit pricing and volumetric taxation -- outperform ad valorem taxation and increasing the current UK tax."

They also note the added value of specifically decreasing heavy drinking behaviour: "Importantly, unlike other tax options, these two policies target harmful drinking without at the same time targeting those in poorer population groups who do not engage in harmful drinking behaviour."

Source: Eurek Alert, 23rd February
 

'Great concern' over children's exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship

Alcohol sponsorship of sport is associated with risky drinking among school children and adult athletes, according to a report.

The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) said its review of seven studies, published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, found that each one indicated that exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship was associated with increased levels of alcohol consumption and risky drinking.

The seven studies included findings from 12,760 people in high-income countries including the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Studies conducted in the UK found that among Welsh schoolchildren in Year 10, or aged 14 to 15, awareness of alcohol sports sponsorship was linked to a 17% higher chance of boys and 13% higher chance of girls getting drunk at the weekend.

The figures increased to 26% for boys getting drunk and 27% for girls when the same schoolchildren had both positive attitudes towards alcohol and awareness of alcohol sports sponsorship.

And among UK university sportspeople, those receiving alcohol industry sponsorship were four times more likely to report hazardous drinking than non-sponsored sportspeople.

The report also included a study of schoolchildren aged 13 to 14 from four EU countries which found exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship when viewing a major football tournament was linked to a 70% increased chance of underage drinking.

Katherine Brown, the director of the IAS and the report's author, said: "It is of great concern to see that sport, which should be viewed as a healthy, family friendly activity, is potentially putting our children and athletes at risk due to sponsorship deals with alcohol companies.

"There is strong evidence that exposure to alcohol marketing leads young people to drink at an earlier age and to drink more if they already do so.

"This is why the OECD and World Health Organisation have called on governments to investigate the introduction of alcohol advertising bans.

"Major alcohol brands are prominent in almost every high profile sporting event today, exposing millions of children to advertising and building positive associations that could be damaging in the long-term."

Tom Smith, head of policy at the charity Alcohol Concern, said: "Alcohol sports sponsorship creates a positive association between drinking and sports that cannot be unlearned.

"Millions of children in the UK consume these positive drinking messages whilst innocently following their favourite teams and tournaments.

"It's great to see the Scottish women's football team have recently made a stand against alcohol advertising to ensure young girls aren't exposed to, or endorsing alcohol brands via their kit.

"Sport should be an opportunity to motivate healthy positive behaviours amongst younger generations, not more drinking."

Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group, which represents the alcohol industry, said: "As the UK's leading temperance campaigners, it is unsurprising that the IAS consistently ignore the official statistics which show significant and sustained declines in under-age drinking during the last decade.

"The IAS also fails to mention the real-world evidence that shows an alcohol sponsorship ban in France has had no effect on reducing under-age drinking.

"Alcohol sponsorship is strictly controlled in the UK to ensure children are protected and we have made good progress in tackling under-age drinking through education, enforcing strict ID schemes and by providing alternative activities for young people.

"This is about teaching responsible behaviour and supporting our young people as they progress to adulthood, not banning everything in sight."

Source: BT News online, 25th February
 

Minimum unit pricing is the healthiest pricing policy, says Sheffield experts

Minimum unit pricing and taxing all alcohol by strength are the best approaches for targeting a reduction in health inequalities of alcohol consumption, according to a comparative analysis of alcohol pricing strategies published in PLOS Medicine.

Using their well-known Alcohol Policy Model, the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group were able to estimate the impact of four different economic policies on alcohol consumption and health. Their findings showed that a minimum unit price of 50p was estimated to reduce consumption among low income heavy drinkers by 7.6% and low income moderate drinkers by 2.9%. Replacing current excise duties with a flat rate of £0.22 per unit of strength for all beverage types (volumetric taxation) was the next most effective policy, estimated to reduce consumption among low income heavy drinkers by 5.8% and low income moderate drinkers by 3.1%.

These results were in contrast to simply increasing current alcohol taxes to the equivalent level (13.4% increase), which was estimated to reduce consumption among both low income heavy drinkers and moderate drinkers by 2.2%. The least effective method was to introduce a 4% ad valorem tax to alcohol prices (specific sales tax on product value after duty at the time of purchase), which was estimated to lower consumption among both sets of drinkers by 2.1%.

In terms of reducing mortality among the heaviest drinkers and reducing alcohol-related health inequalities, the research team found that minimum unit pricing had the greatest impact on consumption among heavy drinkers on low incomes who are at greatest risk of harm from their alcohol use.

Among heavy drinkers in the lowest socioeconomic group, the estimated effects on mortality rates were −3.2% for the current tax increase (it reduced alcohol-related deaths by 3.2%), −2.9% for value-based taxation, −6.1% for strength-based taxation, and −7.8% for minimum unit pricing.

As a result of these targeted effects, these policies were also the most effective in reducing the gap in alcohol-related deaths rates between the lowest and highest socioeconomic groups, the authors of the study wrote.

“The alcohol-related mortality rate was 108% higher in lower socioeconomic groups before introducing any policy but this gap was estimated to reduce to 79% higher under a 50p minimum unit price and 83% higher when taxing all alcohol by strength,” they said.

The study contributes to an area of alcohol policy where evidence is needed for comparing the health impacts of different taxation and pricing strategies, including taxation by price, by beverage volume, or by alcohol content, and across population groups.

Commenting on the implications of their findings for the long-running minimum unit pricing court battle between the Scottish Government and a consortium of industry players led by the Scotch Whisky Association, the authors wrote:

“Our comparison of minimum pricing to tax policy options is fundamental [to the legal case], as it shows that whilst with substantial duty increases, the same overall reductions in deaths and hospital admissions could be achieved, these would not target heavy drinkers as effectively, lead to greater consumer spending increases and be less effective at reducing health inequalities.”

Source: IAS, 23rd February
 

No booze or betting: Women's football rejects sponsorship offers

THE organisation which runs Scottish women's football will never accept commercial partnerships with companies in the alcohol and gambling industries, according to a leading board member.

Speaking on the day when the new league season was launched at Hampden, Vivienne MacLaren, who is director of media and communications at SWF, said: "We have had approaches from companies in both sectors.

"They asked if we wanted to speak to them about sponsorship. We said no because we want women's football to be a clean sport, and one which helps to educate young girls.

"There are huge problems, in the west of Scotland especially, with gambling and alcoholism. I think it would be absolutely crazy to allow little girls and women to be running around in strips endorsing these sectors."

Scottish men's football was once heavily reliant on alcohol sponsorship, and currently both the Scottish FA and SPFL have sponsorship deals with William Hill and Ladbrokes. British football in general is awash with advertising for betting companies - more than a third of English Premier League clubs are sponsored by online bookmakers.

"It's my opinion, and that of the SWF board, that we wouldn't just take money for the sake of it," MacLaren said. "We usually do need money, because we get very little from the Scottish FA and we're trying to be self-sufficient.

"People might say we're crazy not accepting sponsorship from these sectors, but if we can survive without it and give ourslelves a bit longer to find the right partners that is the best approach."

It is understood that SWF, whose annual general meeting is this weekend, are very close to announcing a sponsor for their version of the Scottish Cup. Another commercial partnership is also being investigated.

All 16 clubs in the new eight-team SWPL top divisions were represented at the season's launch at Hampden. The League Cup gets underway a week tomorrow (sun) and the league early next month.

The sport, which was actively discouraged for 50 years by the SFA until the early 1970s, continues to grow in numbers. There are now 10,000 active players in Scotland, and the target is to double that by 2020.

"It's not just about football, it's about health and wellbeing," MacLaren said. "I understand why a business employing a lot of people would have to consider alcohol and betting sponsorship, but we want to make women's football as clean as possible."

Source: Herald Scotland, 20th February
 

Toolkit issued to help people object to alcohol sales

A leading anti-alcohol abuse campaign group has issued a “toolkit” to help local communities in Scotland raise objections at licensing boards.

Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) says complicated bureaucracy means residents can find it difficult to make their views heard.

The group says the boards have a duty to listen to those they represent and who will be affected by decisions such as increased pub hours and supermarkets getting permission to sell alcohol.

They say local residents’ concerns need to be considered as much as submissions from frontline workers such as police, paramedics and doctors dealing with the aftermath of the effects of alcohol on a daily basis.

The vast majority (91 per cent) of Scots think there are already enough or too many licensed premises in Scotland, according to a survey by Bluegrass Research in 2014.

However, only three per cent of licence applications were refused last year.

AFS say this suggests more needs to be done to give people the knowledge, skills and confidence to voice concerns.

The toolkit explains the licensing process, how to raise objections and includes a number of “top tips” such as keeping hold of police incident numbers if police have been called out to deal with anti-social behaviour, taking photos to illustrate points, and keeping track of deadlines.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of AFS, said licensing board decisions affected everyone.

“They decide whether a new supermarket or pub should get a licence, whether opening hours should be extended or whether an occasional licence should be granted for an event.

“We know that the more easily available alcohol is, the more health and social problems occur. In fact, neighbourhoods with the most licensed premises have alcohol-related death rates twice those of neighbourhoods with the fewest.”

Michael Matheson, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, said: “The damaging impact of alcohol misuse is clear. That is why there is legislation in place to control where and when it is sold.

“I believe that our local communities have the most insight on these issues, however they can struggle to get their views heard. This invaluable resource will help them to have their say and I congratulate Alcohol Focus Scotland for making this happen.”

Roger Colkett, of Tollcross Community Council in Edinburgh, said: “When I took on the responsibility for licensing issues, I had very little knowledge of the Licensing Act, little understanding of the wider impact of alcohol and no experience of the procedures of Edinburgh Licensing Board.

“Had this toolkit been available then, it would have saved me a great deal of time, trouble and anxiety, particularly when attending board ­meetings.”

Source: The Scotsman, 23rd February
 

Starbucks and Pret to sell alcohol in a bid to lure late-night drinkers away from pubs

Starbucks and sandwich chain Pret a Manger are to begin selling alcohol in a bid to attract late night drinkers away from pubs.

Both chains have begun trialling selling wine and beer, evening meals and later openings in some outlets and are now looking at ways to expand nationwide.

And in a bid to woo coffee snobs who don’t like the mainstream chains, Starbucks has revealed a new look shop.

The US giant is calling the concept ‘Star R’ - which refers to its ‘Starbucks Reserve’ coffee.

Unlike its normal stores, customers are treated to table service from uniformed waiters and waitresses holding iPads to take orders.

Wine, from vineyards in its home state of Washington, craft beer and tapas are available after 4pm.

Starbucks American boss Howard Schultz has said he wants to open up to 100 of the shops around the world. More locations in London will follow as well as Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol.

Rival Pret a Manger’s trial store opened in London and sells dinners to tempt theatre goers with meals including lemon & rosemary chicken or meatballs for less than £6, served to customers’ tables on crockery.

Diners can also choose from a selection of French red and white wines, prosecco and British craft beers.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive at the British Beer & Pub Association, said: ‘As long as there’s a level playing field, and coffee shops have to jump through the same hoops as pubs when it comes to the burdens of the licencing system, there is no general reason why coffee shops shouldn’t serve alcohol.

After all, most pubs now sell great coffee, and also compete vigorously with the restaurant sector on our high streets.’

She said the coffee shops will not be able to compete with the way pubs serve cask beer which the ‘coffee shops would struggle to imitate.’

Anthony Pender, of the British Institute of Innkeeping, said: ‘We have been watching the developments around brands such as Starbucks offering alcohol with interest.

‘We do not believe this will have a long-term negative effect on the pub industry because we provide a very different experience to these types of food outlet, particularly in the evening and late night space.

‘The great British pub occupies a key part of our country’s culture and there are few things that can beat enjoying a drink with friends in a quality pub.’

As well as opening new outlets Starbucks is also planning on novelty to compete with upmarket coffee shops.

This includes coffee making that looks like a chemistry laboratory: funnels, siphons and glass chambers. These gadgets can create six different coffees with five different brewing methods.

Rhys Iley, vice president of Starbucks’ operations across Europe said: ‘The new shops are theatre for coffee. We want to showcase our coffee credentials and we are showing the science behind it.

‘We are finding customers want to come in the evening as an alternative to the pub.’

Nick Sandler, creative chef at Pret, said: ‘Customers have been asking us for some time about creating an early evening menu, so we’re giving it a go.

‘Evening dining is particularly important to customers in this area of the city who are looking for somewhere convenient and affordable to eat before heading to the theatre.’

Pret also sells alcohol at its Gatwick Airport outlet and some of its central London and station shops are open until 11pm or midnight. It will now look at where else it will sell alcohol and open late.

Retail specialist James Sawley, from HSBC Commercial Bank, said: ‘More and more restaurants and cafes are doing all day menus as the frequency of eating out is increasing.

‘From pubs to cafes to restaurants, chains are expanding their menus from breakfast and into the evening. To stay relevant in the face of changing consumer behaviours, chains have to innovate and adapt to compete.

‘The eating out market is growing and branded casual dining chains are winning market share against independents, however I expect quality independents will always thrive.’

Source: Daily Mail, 25th February
 

How alcohol affects your face, weight - and brain

New guidelines on alcohol intake introduced by the UK’s chief medical officer say there is no such thing as a healthy level of drinking and that we should all be cutting down on booze. According to the lastest recommendations, men as well as women should consume no more than 14 units a week — equivalent to six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine —and pregnant women should not drink at all.

After smoking and obesity, alcohol is the biggest lifestyle risk factor for disease and death in the UK, yet many of us drink far more than we should. The charity Alcohol Concern estimates that 7.5 million people are unaware of the damage their drinking could be causing and says that more than 9 million people in England alone are thought to exceed the suggested daily limits for safe drinking. So what are the risks for men and women who consume alcohol to excess?

Men

Brain One of the largest studies into the long-term effects of alcohol consumption a couple of years ago suggested that chronic heavy drinking is linked to a significant cognitive decline in men but not in women, who, for reasons that aren’t clear, seem to be protected against some of the toxic effect. Researchers from University College London (UCL), reporting in the Journal of Neurology, found that middle-aged men (average age 56) who drank 36 grams, the equivalent of at least two shots or pints of booze a day for a decade, experienced greater memory loss and slowing of brain function compared with “occasional” or “moderate” drinkers.

Female participants were classified as “heavy drinkers” if they consumed about one shot a day but didn’t show nearly the level of cognitive decline as the men, possibly because of the protective effect of the hormone oestrogen. “Our study focused on middle-aged participants and suggests that heavy drinking is associated with faster decline in all areas of cognitive function in men,” says Dr Severine Sabia, an epidemiologist at UCL.

Heart Moderate amounts of alcohol have been shown to protect against heart disease for some people but long-term heavy drinking and binge-drinking episodes can raise the risk of a heart attack sharply in men and women. A review of alcohol consumption by the World Health Organisation showed that, at 35.5 per cent, men in the UK were more likely than women to have had a binge-drinking episode in the previous month.

Last year researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, found binge drinking raised the risk of a heart attack by more than 70 per cent and that the dangers are greatest within the first hour of heavy drinking. Spirits such as vodka, whisky and gin posed the greatest threat, with beer and wine considered less risky possibly because of the blood vessel-relaxing polyphenols they contain. The study also found that people most at risk were those who drink little or nothing during the week but overdo it at the weekend. “Even if you haven’t drunk alcohol Monday to Friday, that doesn’t mean you can have a week’s worth on Saturday,” says Victoria Taylor, a senior dietician for the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Binge drinking is defined as eight units of alcohol in one sitting for men, which is three pints of 5 per cent alcohol beer or three and a half standard glasses (175ml each) of 13 per cent alcohol wine. A YouGov survey commissioned by the BHF revealed that one in 20 men thought that binge drinking for them would be a minimum of ten pints of beer or more.

Sperm count As few as five alcoholic drinks a week could reduce the quality of a man’s sperm, according to a study in the journal BMJ Open. Danish researchers examined 1,200 male recruits aged 18 to 28, asking them about their diet and drinking habits and getting them to provide sperm and blood samples. Results showed that drinking alcohol in the week before the samples were taken was associated with distinct changes in reproductive hormone levels, and the more alcohol consumed, the weaker the quality of the men’s sperm.

The effects were evident in those who drank five or more units or just over two pints of beer a week but most pronounced in men who drank 25 units or more. “Young men should be advised to avoid habitual alcohol intake,” the researchers wrote.

Waistline It’s not just the calories in alcohol — substantial in themselves — but the lax approach to diet when drinking that spells bad news for the male middle. Two years ago a study by the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism showed that men consume an extra 433 calories (equivalent to a McDonald’s double cheeseburger) on the days when they drink a moderate amount of alcohol, with only about 61 per cent of the increase accounted for by alcohol.

Men also reported in the same survey eating higher amounts of fats and meat but less fruit and milk on the days they were drinking. “Poorer food choices on drinking days have public-health implications,” says Rosalind Breslow, an epidemiologist and lead author of the study.

Stomach A single episode of binge drinking can result in bacteria leaking from the gut and increased levels of toxins in the blood. These bacterial toxins, called endotoxins, could trigger the body to produce immune cells involved in fever, inflammation and tissue destruction, says Gyongyi Szabo, professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who leads the research in this area. “We found that a single alcohol binge can elicit an immune response, potentially impacting the health of an otherwise healthy individual,” says Szabo. “Our observations suggest that an alcohol binge is more dangerous than previously thought.”

Previous studies have also shown how chronic alcohol consumption also causes greater gut permeability and the release of potentially harmful products such as bacteria and toxins that can travel through the intestinal wall to other parts of the body. Risk of stomach cancer is also higher in men who drink heavily.

Muscles Men who think they are offsetting the effects of booze by hitting the gym are mistaken. In fact, too much alcohol may undo the hard work they put in to working out. Researchers in New Zealand published a study that found significant delays in muscle recovery when the men drank even a “moderate” amount of alcohol after working out.

An Australian study revealed that alcohol can also interfere with muscle growth. In the trial, men were put through three vigorous workouts, including weights, hard cycling and high-intensity sprints. After two of the sessions they were given what the scientists deemed “optimal” post-exercise nutrition in the form of high protein and carb-rich meals. After the third trial they were given only alcohol and carbohydrate. Results showed that drinking 1.5g/kg of alcohol after exercise suppresses the signals that would normally tell the muscles to adapt and grow stronger.

“Chronic heavy alcohol consumption also impairs healing and recovery from sports injuries,” says Hannah Sheridan, a nutritionist at the University of Birmingham’s High Performance Centre.

Prostate According to Prostate Cancer UK, there is not enough direct evidence to link a heavy alcohol intake to this disease in men. However, the charity states that “we do know that drinking too much alcohol can make you put on weight, and being overweight increases your risk of advanced or aggressive prostate cancer”.

Some studies suggest that heavy drinking, especially when it’s beer, increases the risk of getting highly aggressive prostate cancer. Findings from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle suggest that heavy drinking reduces the cancer-preventing effect of finasteride, a drug prescribed to prevent prostate cancer.

Women

Weight “While women can store nutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fat in their bodies, for nutritional reasons the body has no use for alcohol and therefore stores the excess calories it provides as fat,” says Professor Paul Wallace, the chief medical adviser to the alcohol education charity Drinkaware. “It’s healthier to cut back on alcohol rather than food for weight loss,” Wallace says. “Calories from alcohol are ‘empty calories’; they have no nutritional value.”

Statistics produced by the charity show how two ciders are equal to an overall calorie intake of 648, about 32 per cent of a woman’s recommended daily allowance of 2,000 calories. Add four beers and a double gin and tonic, and it amounts to 1,284 calories, the equivalent of four burgers, and would require a 128-minute run (nine to ten miles for most people) to work it off.

The trainer Matt Roberts says that increased alcohol consumption is often the cause of weight gain in women. “Most alcoholic drinks and mixers contain high amounts of sugar, which are then stored away in the body as fat. It also disturbs your sleep and dehydrates you, so as you cut down you will find that the quality of your exercise improves.”

Fertility Official advice from the Department of Health is that women trying for a baby should avoid alcohol. “There is a link between drinking and fertility, although exactly how alcohol makes women less fertile isn’t understood clearly,” says Anthony Rutherford, a consultant in reproductive medicine and chairman of the British Fertility Society. “Many studies have shown that even drinking lightly can have an effect.”

One Danish paper showed drinking between one and five drinks a week reduced the chances of conceiving, and ten drinks or more decreases the likelihood of conception even further. Some fertility clinics recommend that women cease drinking three months before they start IVF treatment. In research on couples for whom three cycles of IVF had failed it was reported how those who abstained from alcohol had a 90 per cent chance of achieving a successful pregnancy within three years. Even one to two glasses a week reduced their success rates to 66 per cent.

Source: The Times, 20th February
 

Healthier eating saves middle-class drinkers

If you are a slim member of the non-smoking middle classes who enjoys a bottle of wine over a healthy meal, there is good news: the affluent can get away with drinking too much because they are less likely to have other bad habits that amplify the dangers of alcohol, the first study of its kind concludes.

While the rich tend to drink more than the poor, scientists have long been puzzled as to why they do not seem to be made as ill by the same amount of alcohol. Now researchers believe that they have an answer: poorer drinkers are more likely get sick because they also tend to be overweight smokers who do not eat their greens, magnifying their risks.

Combining unhealthy habits increases the risk of illness by more than the sum of their parts, with drinking and smoking twice as dangerous as the individual risks would imply, the scientists warn.

Public health experts have questioned 6,000 people about their habits, finding that 83 per cent of poorer people who drink more than recommended levels have at least one other unhealthy habit, compared with 67 per cent of richer drinkers.

Nearly 9 per cent of the poorest risky drinkers also smoke, are overweight, get little exercise and eat little in the way of fruit and vegetables, compared with just 1 per cent of richer drinkers.

The report is published in the journal BMC Public Health.

Mark Bellis of Bangor University, who led the study, said: “These things do not just add to each other — they have a multiplicative effect. When you are overweight you do not just get the risk of being overweight and [the risk of drinking], you get those added and effectively doubled as well. The effects may be even greater when you add three or four types of [unhealthy] behaviour in.”

Exactly how this happens is still unclear but Professor Bellis said: “In general terms the body is trying to maintain itself in a constant level of balance. Alcohol is providing a challenge to the body in keeping that balance and if you have got multiple challenges it becomes increasingly difficult for the body to maintain a healthy balance.”

Poorer people were more likely to binge rather than drink steadily through the week, which also increases their health risk.

The study defined risky drinkers as men who had more than 21 units a week and women who had more than 14, although recent official guidance brought the recommended weekly limit for men down to the same as that for women.

Professor Bellis said that such guidance ought to warn people that the risks are greater if they also have generally unhealthy lifestyles.

“We need on an individual level for people to understand that being overweight and having an unhealthy lifestyle may carry additional risks when you’re drinking alcohol,” he said. “People should understand that if they are overweight, smoking and drinking then the risks are not just adding to each other, they are going to multiply each other.”

While slim non-smokers who enjoy sharing a bottle of wine every night over a healthy meal are likely to be heartened by the findings, Professor Bellis said: “This is no way suggests that you can avoid the risks of alcohol by changing the other things in your life. What you can do is bring down some of the overlap and multiplicative effects.”

James Nicholls, of Alcohol Research UK, said: “This highlights the importance of wider social, economic and behavioural factors in understanding alcohol-related harm. It suggests health risks from alcohol are much greater when combined with smoking, poor diet and low levels of physical activity.”

Source: The Times, 18th February
 

Burger King loses bid to sell alcohol at two of London's busiest rail stations

Burger King has lost its bid to sell beer at two of London’s busiest rail stations, following strong opposition from police.

The fast-food giant wanted to serve alcohol seven days a week at its branches in Victoria and Paddington stations.

SSP, which runs Burger King outlets at travel hubs across the globe, applied for a licence to sell beer from 10am until 11pm Monday to Saturday, and 10am until 10.30pm on Sundays.

But PC Bryan Lewis told Westminster council’s licensing sub-committee the measures could put young people at risk, and increase crime and disorder in and around the stations.

“To us, it’s fast food, fast service, fast alcohol and fast drunkenness, as a result of that,” he said.

“People consume alcohol and have a desire to eat fast food on the way home. At this point, they have had enough to drink but then they will be offered more [alcohol] at the station.”

Nicola Smith, solicitor for SSP, pointed out that Burger King customers could already purchase alcohol from other restaurants and shops surrounding the station.

She said: “It’s really so that our customers can go to one venue instead of two.”

PC Lewis said that granting the licences would set “a precedent” for other fast food stores wanting to sell alcoholic drinks across the capital.

He added that there would be no security in place to stop customers buying beer and handing it to underage drinkers.

Fast food junkies can already purchase a beer with their burger inside Burger King restaurants at two London train stations – East Croydon and Fenchurch Street.

Refusing the application, chair of the licensing sub-committee councillor Angela Harvey said: “These mainline stations are transport hubs with many millions of people passing through.

“Increased consumption of alcohol in these public spaces will lead to more drinking on trains and in the streets.

“Encouraging drinking in public spaces can lead to public nuisance, crime and disorder. We have listened to the concerns raised by the Metropolitan Police Service.

“We find that the proposed application isn’t appropriate as it’s not adequately controlled.”

Burger King became the first fast food chain to sell alcohol in the UK after it won a drinks licence at its branch in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

Source: London Evening Standard, 21st February
 

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can affect multiple generations

More than half of people in the north east have suffered due to someone else drinking alcohol in the last 12 months, a new report has revealed.

The Balance report ‘The second hand harm of alcohol in the North East’ highlights the secondary impact that alcohol is having on people.

Balance surveyed 1,300 residents in the north east on how drinking behaviours impacted on them.

A total of 57 per cent have suffered at least once due to the drinking of others; 31 per cent have suffered at least one negative consequence as a result of the heavy drinking of someone known to them; 23 per cent have been verbally abused at work at least once by an unknown drinker and 18 per cent have been harassed on the street or in a public place at least once by an unknown drinker.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “There is an obvious awareness of the harm that alcohol can have on individuals but we also need to tackle the impact that drinking alcohol can have on others – the second hand harms. This is a real issue which we also need to address.

“I’m sure many of us can recall an instance when someone else’s drinking has affected us in some way.”

“We can’t just accept this as the ‘norm’ – no one should have to suffer the second hand harms of alcohol.

“To truly make a difference we need to see a package of measures put in place to tackle the problems caused by alcohol that is too cheap, too widely available and too heavily promoted.

“We need the Government to support a range of targeted, evidence-based measures such as increasing the price of the cheapest, strongest alcohol products, which has been shown to save lives, reduce hospital admissions, cut crime and lessen the financial burden alcohol places on frontline services.

“It will also reduce the impact of second hand harm.”

Source: News Guardian, 24th February 
 
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