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

13 July 2016


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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.

Ruling on minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland due 'in near future'

A panel of top judges have told some of Scotland’s most senior lawyers that they need time to consider the legality of minimum pricing alcohol legislation.

Lord Carloway told advocates acting for the Scotch Whisky Association and the Scottish Government that he will issue his decision on the matter in the near future.

The Lord President was sitting with Lord Brodie and Lord Menzies in a case which was brought to the Court of Session in Edinburgh by the Scotch Whisky Association.

The SWA believe that legislation which will introduce a 50p minimum price for alcohol contravenes European Union competition law.

However, the Scottish government believes that the law would cut consumption and reduce deaths and illnesses caused by alcohol.

Last month Gerry Moynihan QC told the hearing that studies show that the numbers of Scots dying from alcohol consumption has increased in recent years.

Under Scottish government plans, the cheapest bottle of wine would be £4.69, a four-pack of 500ml cans of beer would cost at least £4 and a bottle of whisky would not be sold for less than £14.

The SWA’s lawyer, Aidan O’Neill QC, told the judges that they had to consider the matter purely on whether the legislation contravened economic laws.

Source:The Scotsman, 9th July

Off-licences seek ban on below- cost selling of alcohol

The umbrella group for off-licences is calling on Government to reduce excise duty and ban below-cost selling of alcohol.

In a pre-budget submission, the National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA) said Ireland had the highest excise on wine in the EU and the third highest tax on beer and spirits.

It claimed the budgetary hikes on excise made during the financial crisis have pushed many off-licences to the brink of commercial failure.

Retailers and suppliers have to raise and pay an extra €17,958 per 1,000 cases of wine in excise and Vat due to increases in Budget 2013 and 2014.

The sector’s difficulties are exacerbated by competition from mixed traders, mainly supermarkets, which now control about 80 per cent of alcohol sales in the Republic.

The group claimed supermarkets typically absorb tax increases on popular products - by as much as 68 per cent - to keep alcohol prices low and maintain footfall.

The group, which represents about 300 businesses - employing 5,900 people in the Republic, wants the Government to reintroduce a ban on the below cost selling of alcohol.

Alcohol Bill

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which is before the Dáil, contains provisions for the establishment of minimum unit pricing measures to prevent below-cost selling.

A potential obstacle comes in the form of a recent European Court of Justice ruling, which found similar legislation in Scotland contravened EU law.

As part of the submission, NOffLA released the results of its 2016 member survey which indicated that 55 per cent of off-licences would struggle to remain open if the current level of excise is increased in Budget 2017, jeopardising thousands of jobs.

Conversely, the survey suggested if the current level is excise is reduced 81 per cent of respondents would re-invest in their business.

“We are calling on the new Government to take positive and decisive action that will safeguard jobs, encourage local investment and ultimately contribute to the development of local communities,” Noffla’s government affairs directior, Evelyn Jones, said.

“A reversal of the punitive Budget 2014 excise increase on alcohol combined with a reduction of the tax on wine, which is significantly higher than that of cider and beer, would facilitate business and indeed consumer choice,” she said.

“Finally, we believe tighter controls on out-of-state online retailers should be introduced to promote higher levels of responsible retailing thus protecting the general public, alcohol consumers and retailers,” she added.

Source: The Irish Times, 12th July

Study finds link between discrimination, drinking alcohol

Exposure to discrimination may be linked to alcohol abuse, according to a study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

Statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism show 16.3 million adults (6.8%) had an alcohol abuse problem in 2014. Nearly a quarter (24.7%) of adults reported engaging in binge drinking in the past month. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol claimed the lives of 88,000 people each year from 2006-2010, for a total of 2.5 million years of potential life lost.

Methods for Researching Discrimination and Alcohol Habits          

The study looked at previous research on alcohol and discrimination, providing a systematic review of research conducted between 1980 and 2015. Of 938 studies, 97 met all of the researchers’ inclusion criteria. The studies looked at an array of discrimination, including gender and sexual orientation and race/ethnic discrimination. The studies focused more frequently on racial discrimination, which accounted for 71 of the 96 included studies, though racial discrimination targeted at Native Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders received less attention.

The studies pointed to a clear connection between exposure to discrimination and increased alcohol consumption. Previous research suggests people often drink to cope with stress, and discrimination can cause severe stress.

Future Research Opportunities on Discrimination and Drinking

Although the studies establish a connection between drinking and discrimination, the study’s authors point out several possibilities for future research. Most of the current research focuses on interpersonal discrimination, such as racial slurs. The authors say other research could focus on systematic and structural discrimination, such as neighborhood segregation. They also hope to see further analysis of which groups are most vulnerable to discrimination-related drinking.

The researchers also hope future studies will explore the types of drinking to which discrimination is correlated. For example, does discrimination merely increase drinking, or does it increase the risk of alcoholism?

Source: Good Therapy,12th July


Alcohol advertising and sponsorship to be addressed by Government

Rugby League legend Graham Lowe is "deeply saddened" a 2014 report which recommended banning alcohol advertising in sport has been met with silence from the Government.

The former New Zealand rugby league coach chaired a ministerial forum on alcohol advertising and sponsorship, ordered by Cabinet to consider whether further restrictions on alcohol advertising and sponsorship would help reduce alcohol-related harm in society.

The panel included public health experts, a sports academic and an advertising representative.

t made bold recommendations on alcohol restrictions including stripping all sporting events, stadiums, teams and television slots of any booze advertising or sponsorship.

Lowe said he was reporting to Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne but had not heard from him since the report was completed in October 2014.

"The silence is deafening which is worrying," Lowe said.

Panel members had stuck their necks out making recommendations that proved unpopular with many in the sporting community, who feared a ban would starve clubs and organisations of precious funding, he said.

"I feel deeply saddened for the panel because we put our heart and soul into it and we certainly didn't try and win a popularity contest.

"We were there to see if we thought there was an issue and there is an issue."

Dunne said the Government was yet to respond formally to the forum's recommendations because Ministers were still considering the most effective and appropriate measures to be taken in response to them.

It is not a straight forward issue as it requires multi-agency consultation and input from Justice, Health, SportNZ etcetera," Dunne said.

He expected the Government to present its position by the end of the year.

When the report was released Justice Minister Amy Adams, whose ministry supported the panel, said officials would consider the recommendations and report back by the middle of 2015.

On Thursday she said the report made some sweeping suggestions, which would have far-reaching impacts for grassroots sports clubs.

Ministers had asked for further work on the feasibility and impact of the proposals, she said.

"The forum's report raises a number of questions, particularly around understanding the full effect of the proposals which the forum themselves note they have been unable to consider," Adams said.

Lowe said what he found most startling during the review was evidence of the "brainwashing" effect exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship in sport had on children.

"The issue is the in your face big time sport where the heroes of the young are playing.

"That's where the kids are influenced by it."

Panel members were paid $400 a day and spent close to a year reviewing several hundred written submissions, attending meetings and reviewing research.

Panel member and Auckland University of Technology professor Max Abbott said the panel were optimistic that positive changes would come of the review.

"We were pretty confident that the Government would pick up on these," Abbott said.

"Why set up the forum when it's not done in good faith?"

While some perceived the recommendations as over the top, health professionals wanted to more from the report, he said.

"Many of them thought that we hadn't go far enough but we thought it would be politically palatable as a first step."

Abbott said it was hard to exaggerate the social and health costs alcohol had on society, with more than half a million New Zealanders having "hazardous" drinking habits.

The Government response towards alcohol was no where near proportionate to the amount of harm it caused, he said.

In 2010 the Law Commission presented a similar report called Alcohol in our Lives: Curbing the Harm, proposing a five year plan of advertising interventions including banning all alcohol advertising.

It estimated the annual cost of alcohol-related harm in New Zealand was in the range of $735 million to $16.1 billion.

Brewers Association spokesman Kevin Sinnott said an advertising ban would have a detrimental effect on sporting and cultural organisations as well as the economy, while having a "negligible impact" on risky drinking, particularly amongst youth.

The cost of implementing the panel's recommendations would be "astronomical" and the benefits questionable, it said.

Brewer's Association members, including Lion and DB, invest millions in New Zealand sport each year, he said.

"The goal of this investment is not to increase consumption but rather to build loyalty and brand awareness," Sinnott said.

School of Sport and Recreation associate professor Geoff Dickson said predicting the impact of banning alcohol sponsorship was not easy.

The vast majority of alcohol sponsorship was invested in elite and professional sport, he said.

"It is difficult to see how any bans will impact negatively junior sport or non-elite sport," Dickson said.

"When calculating the impact, we must remember that replacement sponsors will be found."

However, replacement sponsors may not contribute as much as.

If alcohol advertising and sponsorships were banned it would create a "dark market", he said.

One of the ways companies compete in dark markets is lower their price.

A ban could also potentially affect New Zealand's ability to host some major international sport events that have alcohol sponsors, he said.

Of all New Zealand's top professional sports teams New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is the only one without an alcohol sponsor - and not through a lack of offers.

NZRL acting commercial general manager Philippa Ivory said its only alcohol sponsorship over the past six years was DB's responsible drinking programme Cheers! involvement in the 2014 Rugby League Four Nations tournament.

NZRL had declined alcohol sponsorship offers since then, she said.

"We want to say whereever we can they we're doing the best by every member in our community," Ivory said.

"We try to make positive choices across a range of areas, it's not limited to alcohol."

The organisation also worked with district health boards to make rugby league sidelines alcohol and smoke free, she said.

"You have to make choices about messages and where possible we want to talk about responsible decisions."

One of the most enduring examples of alcohol advertising in sports is the 30-year partnership between the All Blacks and Lion-produced Steinlager.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said a complete ban on alcohol sponsorship in New Zealand would have a significant impact on communities.

Thanks to the strength of the All Blacks, NZ Rugby would be able to replace income lost from alcohol companies with brands from other categories.

"It would be an awful lot harder for our provincial unions and the local rugby clubs, as it would be for other community organisations, that are still reliant on the support they get from local publicans, local restaurants, the two big breweries and increasingly the large number of boutique craft breweries," Tew said.

The Association of New Zealand Advertisers chief executive Lindsay Mouat​ dismissed the report and said there was no need to change the rules or regulations around alcohol marketing in sport.

"The report should be rejected, there's nothing new coming from it," Mouat said.

Measures were in place to prevent children from being targeted by alcohol advertising, he said.

"We have here in New Zealand a rigorous code to protect young people from being targeted and it works well."

The association was disappointed by the forum's findings because it did not recognise that friends and family were the strongest influences on young people's drinking behaviour, he said.

Source:,10th July

A Derry GP has said that attitudes to drink and drugs must be changed by political action at the top level after figures revealed the number of teenagers treated in Altnagelvin for drink and drug abuse.

Hundreds of teenagers have received treatment at the city’s Accident and Emergency Department for alcohol and drug abuse in the last four years, it has emerged.

The figures were released to the ‘Journal’ following Freedom of Information requests which asked for the numbers of young people between the ages of 13 and 18 who have been treated for the effects of both alcohol and drug abuse between 2012 and 2015.

In a statement added to the answers to the questions, the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) said that the figures for A&E admissions are likely to be higher than the actual figures quoted because some of those presenting at the hospital may do so with injuries such as head trauma for example,with drugs and alcohol, therefore, being considered as secondary factors.

The WHSCT also added that to conduct a FoI request on this basis would be too extensive and would fall outside their obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Dr. Anne Doherty, who is based at Oakleaf Medical Practice in the city said: “It’s very disheartening to see this happening.”

The response to the question on those treated for alcohol abuse revealed that in 2012 a total of 75 teenagers were treated (34 females and 41 males), in 2013; 65 were treated for the effects of drink (29 females and 36 males), in 2014; 32 females and 22 males presented to A&E (a total of 54) and last year, 2015, 59 were treated (34 males and 25 females).

In the last two years a total of 19 more teenage girls were treated for alcohol abuse than males.

Overall, the amount of males and females treated was 253.

The ‘Journal’ also asked the same question in relation to treatment at A&E for drug abuse in the same time period.

The results revealed that in 2012, 19 (11 females and 8 males) were treated and again in 2013 a total of 19 (9 females and 10 males) received treatment for drug abuse at A&E, whilst in 2014 the overall figures was again 19 (10 females and 9 males). Last year, 2015, 12 females and 27 males were treated.

Therefore, in overall terms the amount of teenagers treated for drug abuse in the last four years has doubled and in two of the four years scrutinised marginally more girls were treated than boys.

This means that the final totals in relation to treatment for drink and drugs is 349.

And, a GP who has spoken out in the past on the issue of teenager alcohol abuse has called for top level political action to address the situation in Derry.

Dr. Ann Doherty from Oakleaf Medical Practice reacted to the figures obtained by the ‘Journal’ by saying: “I have been looking at the issue of alcohol related harm in this city for 15-20 years.”

In 2006, Dr, Doherty publicly called on Derry City Council to scrap the annual Hallowe’en Carnival unless it could assure that alcohol consumption could be completely controlled.

At that time the GP said: “Underage drinking is not only confined to Derry, it is every city in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and in England.”

Dr. Doherty also said that when Nelson McCausland, as Social Development Minister, launched a consultation of alcohol in 2014 she formulated a survey of her own and sent the responses she correlated to Stormont.

“I broke it down into two sections which were to create a minimum price for alcohol and also to control the sales of alcohol.

“98 per cent of the doctors I spoke to agreed with thse points, but I am still waiting to hear back from what was the Department of Social Development.

“I believe that change will only come when politicians realise that they need to take this seriously.

“I think there also needs to be changes in awarding top level DLA to people addicted to drink and drugs because it simply encourages them to keep doing it,” she said.

Dr. Doherty also contended that Derry is witnessing premature deaths from alcohol and drug abuse.

She continued: “What we are seeing now are people in their 30s and 40s dying early from drink and drug abuse.

“People that should still be alive today that developed these addictions as teenagers.

“Young people see their parents do this and so it continues on.

“Women in this town used to meet each other for a cup of tea, now they meet each other to drink wine.

“However it appears to me that the political will to address this isn’t out there.

“We are seeing the results of all this now-people choking on their own vomit, liver failure, trauma, head injuries and crashing their cars when they are drunk.

“As a GP in this city I am seeing this more and more.”

Source: Derry Journal, 12th July


Butteries used in Aberdeen charity's battle against alcohol abuse

Source: Evening Express, 12th July

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