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June 2015

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Editorial – June 2015

Welcome to the June edition of Alcohol Alert, the Institute of Alcohol Studies newsletter, covering the latest updates on UK alcohol policy matters.

In this issue, dispute breaks out over the direction of EU alcohol policy, as more than 20 NGOs resign from the Alcohol & Health Forum after Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis drops plans to renew the EU Alcohol Strategy; and French politicians vote to weaken the internationally acclaimed Loi Evin. Other articles include: Police Federation calls for a lower drink-drive limit in England to match their Scottish counterparts; FARE unveils alcohol plan to tackle domestic violence in Australia; and Balance North East launches a campaign highlighting the relationship between alcohol and 7 types of cancer.

Please click on the article titles to read them, or alternatively download a PDF version of our newsletter by clicking on the cover image. We hope you enjoy this edition.

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NGOs quit EU Alcohol and Health Forum

Public health groups walk out of the Forum in protest after Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis ditches Alcohol Strategy

The European Union (EU) Alcohol and Health Forum is in disarray following the resignation of more than 20 public health groups.

This exodus of NGOs came after a speech to the Forum delivered by Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis in which he went against the express wishes of Member States and the European Parliament in abandoning plans for a new EU Alcohol Strategy.

He instead proposed that he “would like to place action on the main causes of chronic diseases”, tying in alcohol alongside tobacco, nutrition and physical inactivity as a risk factor in a wider strategic approach to reducing harm.

The Health Commissioner continued to encourage self-regulation as a vital tool for addressing alcohol-related harm. He said: “I am aware that several Members have taken voluntary actions on nutritional and warning labelling and on responsible advertising. I am persuaded you can go further; you can do more to show that self-regulation delivers results.”

Several health bodies, including Eurocare, European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), and the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME), reacted to this speech by withdrawing their support for the Forum in an open letter to Commissioner Andriukaitis. Signatories to the letter outlined their “deep concerns” about the neglect of public health and the prioritisation of alcohol industry interests.

Trade bodies criticised the NGOs’ decision to exit the Forum as premature. Paul Skehan, Director General for Spirits Europe – the body on the Forum which represents EU spirits producers – said: “While we fully agree with the public health groups that alcohol-related harms must be addressed in a serious, comprehensive manner at EU and national levels, we do not share the NGOs’ opinion that the idea of reducing those harms as part of a wider plan addressing non-communicable diseases is necessarily a bad thing.”

However, public health groups were quick to point out that the Forum was initially established to support the implementation of the previous EU Alcohol Strategy, which ended in 2012.

But the Forum had to date shown no evidence of having had any impact on public health, so with no new Strategy planned, membership of the Forum would be “meaningless”, said Eric Carlin, Director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP).

There was also disappointment at the rejection of requests for public health experts to hold meetings with Commission officials free of vested interests.

Eurocare Secretary General Mariann Skar said:

“The Commissioner himself stated drinking behaviours in Europe are good for the Alcohol Industry but not good for Health. Eurocare represents 58 organisations in 25 countries and we deeply regret the Commission’s decision not to establish a new EU Alcohol Strategy. This flies in the face of persistent demands from Member States, the European Parliament and NGOs. The EU is the heaviest drinking region in the world and with 120,000 premature deaths related to alcohol each year, we absolutely must have a comprehensive strategy to tackle alcohol harm.”

Nina Renshaw, Secretary General of EPHA, said, “The alcohol industry must have raised a few glasses to DG SANTE after their admission at the last Forum meeting that they don’t even aim to improve health. The Commission has finally admitted what the health community has long suspected – that they have abandoned alcohol policy altogether. The Forum has proved worse than useless, a free PR front for the industry. The Commission even endorses the industry introducing drinking culture to young kids by promoting “responsible” drinking in primary schools. The health community had to call time on this charade.”

Drowning the fish of alcohol in a sea of hypocrisy: Comment by Michel Craplet, senior medical adviser for the National Association for Prevention of Alcohol and Addiction (ANPAA)

At the last Alcohol and Health Forum meeting, the Health Commissioner announced that he will not propose a new alcohol strategy as the European Parliament and the health ministers asked the Commission to do. He wants to implement a General strategy to combine alcohol, tobacco, nutrition, physical inactivity… ‘like a Christmas tree’, he said; a strange present in the month of May to the health of Europeans.

I do not think that we can efficiently deal with these topics together. The main problem with alcohol is aggressive marketing aimed at young people. While tobacco advertising is already controlled by international treaties, and labelling on food is globally accepted, giving basic information on alcoholic drinks is still a problem. Indeed we can see that there is little common ground for action on the topics listed by the Commissioner? In the new Forum, should we work besides producers of cars, tv sets and sofas to struggle against physical inactivity?

A general strategy is the best way to forget the specificity of alcohol problems and of alcohol policy. It is the best way to ‘drown the fish’, as we say in French – ‘noyer le poisson’ – that is to confuse the issue deliberately, to avoid the question, or in more visual terms: to ‘cloud the issue’, to evade the issue ‘by throwing so many red herrings’.

We have already experienced consequences of such a comprehensive policy in France: uniting alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs in one pack of ‘addictology’ make disappear alcohol specificity and delay specific solutions. This global approach will be to the benefit of producers and retailers. As a proof of this statement, we saw at the Forum meeting that none of them was opposed to this so called ‘new strategy’ which is only a way to sweep a difficult problem under the carpet.

The Commissioner for Health also stressed the interest of including alcohol problems in the general frame of chronic diseases and life expectancy. Yes, theoretically, but again this is a way of evading the real issue.

Furthermore, this is a narrow medical vision helping to forget all the social consequences of alcohol drinking. Where is the official interest for binge drinking and young people? It is obvious that they will suffer from chronic diseases and premature deaths in some years because adults, their parents apparently, preferred to support the alcohol economy, scarifying the future of European citizens to the European internal market of goods and services.

Wild economic liberalism is spreading over Europe. We see how the Loi Evin is attacked in France with short term arguments. The NGO involved in alcohol policy, prevention and treatment are moved by ethical values and cannot stay in this strange Alcohol and Health Forum where the benefits of economic operators take precedence over the common good.

Listen to Michel discuss the potential implications of post-Strategy EU alcohol policy via our Soundcloud link.

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France: National Assembly votes down government over Loi Evin

Anti- red tape legislation threatens to cut through heart of internationally acclaimed law restricting alcohol ads

France’s lower-house National Assembly has approved a Senate amendment that would relax the country’s rules on alcohol advertising and sponsorship, against the wishes of the ruling government.

Article 62 of an economic reform bill that Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron (Parti Socialiste) is trying to pass through parliament states that anyone filing a complaint against a particular advertisement must prove that the person promoting the product has a personal interest in doing so, and “this communications operation is susceptible to be perceived by a consumer with an average attention span”.

The Loi Evin – passed by former Health Minister Claude Evin in 1991 – states that no alcohol advertising is allowed on television or in cinemas, and all alcoholic ads must have a message stating that abuse of alcohol is dangerous to one’s health. If passed, the Loi Macron will ultimately shift the burden of responsible alcohol advertising from the advertiser to the audience, therefore weakening the advertising element of the Loi Evin.

Public health loses out to “ancestral tradition”

Senator Gérard César (Les Républicians) – former winemaker and a member of the National Assembly’s Winemakers Group – tabled the amendment, claiming that the aim of the proposal was simply to make a clear distinction between communication and advertising regarding alcohol. “To talk about wine and its local soil in a press article is not the same as promoting alcohol”, he said.

His amendment found cross-party support among MPs representing the wine-growing regions of the country, who believe that it would help safeguard France’s “ancestral wine culture”, and boost one of France’s key industries as the country struggles to find the road to economic recovery. Winemakers Group president Catherine Quéré (PS) led this so-called ‘business case’ for the measure, claiming that it would add to the 500,000 jobs and €11 million brought already in tax revenues.

However, Health Minister Marisol Touraine (PS) strongly opposes any changes to Loi Evin. Speaking to the media, Touraine expressed her anger at the course of events and reminded parliament that with 50,000 people a year already dying from the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption, the Loi Macron “cannot serve to undermine public health”.

“The current debate is completely crazy. I’m not demanding that the law be stricter, only to leave it alone. And I don’t know if I’ll succeed because the wine and alcohol lobby in France is stronger that the public health lobby,” Touraine told FRANCE 24.

“The Evin Law has been around for 25 years. During that time I have not seen the exportation of French wines decline, I have not seen France’s wine market deteriorate,” she insisted.

She added that there is a “kind of denial [about alcohol abuse]”, pointing out that the average person in France consumes an equivalent of 120 bottles of wine per year.

“Everyone is always repeating ‘we need to focus on prevention, we need to focus on prevention’, but the day we say that prevention perhaps includes limiting alcohol advertising, the room goes silent,” Touraine lamented.

President François Hollande has publicly backed her on the issue, urging lawmakers to “preserve” Claude Evin’s 24-year-old law.

Claude himself told French newspaper Le Parisien that he was “very worried” about the amendment, which he said would give alcohol companies “almost limitless freedom” to advertise, spelling “the death of the law”.

Public health organisation l’ANPAA has also written an open letter warning of the dangers of delivering television and cinema advertising spaces to the winemaking lobby, as the exceptions carved out of the Loi Evin by Loi Macron will “extend in a major way the possibilities of communication to alcohol marketers”.

“It’s not over”

Dominique Lefebvre (PS), a vocal opponent of the proposed changes, has vowed to fight the amendment in future Assembly debates. He said: “I do not doubt that there will be opportunities to suppress the amendment (in public). I myself will table one (a suppression amendment) and the subject will be discussed again.”

Emmanuel Macron’s bill will be subject to many stages such as this before it is fully ratified in law. In the meantime, the government declared that it would file its own amendment to “clarify” the existing text, and to avoid certain legal cases that could arise from a certain interpretation of the law.

 

 

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Statistics on Alcohol England 2015: Consumption falls, admissions rise

Rises in the number of long-term and chronic conditions resulting from harmful drinking suggest a lag effect from record consumption levels dating back 10 years

This year’s (2015) Statistics on Alcohol report provides a mixed outlook for England’s relationship with alcohol, as small declines in consumption levels are offset by rises in hospital admissions and deaths occurring from the misuse of alcohol.

Published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), the figures show that 15% of men and 20% of women reported abstaining from alcohol in 2013; 18% of men and 13% of women drank at an increased risk of harm; and 5% of men and 3% of women drank at higher risk levels.*

The report also confirms the continuation of the downward trend in recorded underage drinking since 2003. In 2013, 39% of pupils in years 7 to 11 said that they had drunk alcohol at least once. This is lower than at any time since 1988, when the survey first measured the prevalence of drinking in this age group.

However, alcohol-related hospital admissions remain above the million mark, hitting a record 1,059,210 in 2013/14 (broad measure). The broad measure defines alcohol-related admissions as those where the primary or any secondary reason for admission relates to alcohol. The total number of admissions related to alcohol in 2013/14 represents a 5% increase on the previous year (2012/13) and 115% rise on a decade ago.

The regional outlook was bleakest for the North of England, where the North West and North East regions of the country had the highest number and rates of hospital admissions for alcohol-related causes in 2013/14 respectively. The rate of alcohol-related admissions was highest in the North East, 2,480 per 100,000 population. Hospitals in the North West received the most alcohol-related admissions over the period (173,020). The North East region also had the highest proportion of binge drinkers (36%).

Along with increases in alcohol-related admissions, the Statistics on Alcohol release reported further rises in the levels of spending on drugs for treating alcohol dependence. The Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) of drugs for treating alcohol dependence reached a new record high of £3.43 million in 2014, almost 10% up on 2013 (£3.13m), and more than double the NIC in 2004 of £1.52m.

The number of alcohol-related deaths in England also increased compared with the previous years. In 2013 there were 6,592 alcohol-related deaths. This is a 1 per cent increase from 2012 (6,495) and a 10 per cent increase from 2003 (5,984).

Lag effect

It is interesting to note that among the increases in alcohol admissions by broad measure, almost half (48%) of the million-plus entries to hospitals were due to cardiovascular disease, which itself topped half a million admissions for the first time since records began (511,260).

This is part of a wider upward trend in hospital admissions for long-term and especially among chronic disease categories. Among the estimated 333,010 admissions where the primary diagnosis or alcohol-related external causes recorded in secondary diagnosis fields were attributable to the consumption of alcohol (the narrow measure), most admissions (74,330; or 22%) were due to cancer.

These figures, coupled with the fact that alcohol remains 54% more affordable today (2014) than it was in 1980, suggests a strong causative correlation between consumption, price, and harm.

It could also be argued that the data are a reflection of the long-term health effects of the record levels of consumption experienced roughly ten years ago.

Therefore, despite slight declines in consumption since the early 2000s, there is still some way to go before admissions and deaths from long-term alcohol misuse follow suit.

The Statistics on Alcohol in England report is an annual HSCIC report presenting a broad picture of health issues related to alcohol misuse, drinking habits and behaviours, drinking related ill health and mortality, affordability of alcohol and alcohol related costs. It forms part of a suite of statistical reports covering various aspects of health and social care including smoking, drug use and obesity, nutrition and physical activity.


* The level of drinking defined as increased risk is typically between 21 and 50 units per week for men and between 14 and 35 units per week for women. The level of drinking defined as higher risk is typically above 50 units per week for men and between 35 units per week for women.

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Millions of alcohol units lost to special occasions in surveys

National survey finds Brits underreported the equivalent of 12m bottles of wine per week

Researchers have exposed the extent of the gap between the amount of alcohol drunk and the amount of alcohol known to be sold in England.

The BioMed Central study, published by UK researchers from three universities (Cardiff, Bangor, and Liverpool John Moores) and funded by Alcohol Research UK, found that while people may accurately report their standard drinking patterns from week to week, they may forget the drinking they do on special occasions – such as bank holidays, parties, weddings, wakes, or big sporting events.

This has resulted in surveys measuring typical alcohol consumption accounting for only around 60% of alcohol sold.

The researchers measured both typical drinking and atypical/special occasion drinking in order to see whether the latter makes up for the shortfall in the former.

Method

Researchers conducted telephone interviews with 6,085 randomly-selected members of the public aged 16 and over in England.

Participants were asked about normal drinking patterns and those outside their usual circumstances, such as summer holidays, bank holidays, and weddings.

The research team then used national population estimates and stratified drinking survey data to weight responses to match the English population.

Results

Accounting for atypical/special occasion drinking added more than 120 million UK units of alcohol/week (~12 million bottles of wine) to population alcohol consumption in England.

The greatest impact was seen among 25- to 34-year-olds with the highest typical consumption, where atypical/special occasions added approximately 18 units/week (144 g) for both sexes.

Those reporting the lowest typical consumption (≤1 unit/week) showed large relative increases in consumption (209.3%) with most drinking associated with special occasions.

The Health Survey for England, a nationally representative survey, estimates alcohol consumption only accounted for 63.2% of sales. The new survey, including special occasion drinking, estimates alcohol consumption accounted for 78.5% of sales.

Achievements and limitations

The authors of the study remarked that typical drinking alone can be a “poor proxy for actual alcohol consumption”.

They wrote: “Accounting for atypical/special occasion drinking fills 41.6% of the gap between surveyed consumption and national sales in England (illustrated).

“These additional units are inevitably linked to increases in lifetime risk of alcohol-related disease and injury, particularly as special occasions often constitute heavy drinking episodes.

They also stated: “Accurate measures of alcohol consumption are critical in assessing health harms caused by alcohol.”

However, while the authors claimed that the survey acted “as a proof of concept” for their hypothesis, they admitted that the survey data did not generate a representative sample of alcohol consumers and abstainers on a national basis.

Instead, when collecting their data, they discovered that take-up rates were low (only 23.3% of those contacted responded) and that the demography of their telephone sample lent more towards women, older people, and people of white ethnicity than is true for England as a whole.

The researchers opted for a conservative measure too, by removing an average drinking day’s consumption for each special event day reported, when in reality, they had not asked the participants whether they had made the same distinction in their own drinking patterns.

Therefore, the results certainly accounted for some of the discrepancy between self-reported alcohol consumption and alcohol sales, but not all.

The authors concluded that ultimately a larger nationally representative survey would be needed to test the usefulness of their methodology as a national alcohol monitoring tool.

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Support pubs, deal with off-trade cheap drink

Industry figures urge new Government to create a level playing field between pubs and supermarkets

As reported in the Morning Advertiser, leading voices within the pub industry have called on the new government to take action on supermarkets selling cut-price alcohol.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Multiple Licensed Retailers said: “Crucially we would like to see the new government create a levelling of the playing field in terms of VAT, business rates and alcohol prices to ensure that the licensed hospitality business remain competitive at the same time as tackling pocket money prices in the off-trade.”

JD Wetherspoon’s chairman Tim Martin also urged the incoming Conservative Government to create “equal rates payable per pint in pubs and supermarkets.” The pub giant accused supermarkets of impacting trading performance earlier this month, naming the late night levy, higher business rates per pint and a ‘huge VAT disparity’ as major disadvantages for pubs. Martin has been a vocal critic of supermarket booze offers throughout his tenure as chairman of the company, which now has over 900 pubs.

Tim Page, chief executive of CAMRA added: “Well-run pubs are part of the solution, not the cause of any problem the UK has with alcohol. They present a controlled atmosphere rather than drinking for drinking’s sake. The same cannot be said for alcohol purchased cheaply from supermarkets. We call on the Government to recognise this distinction and to support pubs.”

With a ban on below cost sales already in place, one would speculate that any further upward pressure on alcohol pricing legislation could only leave room for introducing minimum unit pricing.

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UK online drinks market sees huge growth in 2015

Exceptional growth in the first quarter, according to market research group

At 28.7%, online sales of beers, wine and spirits in the first quarter of this year recorded the highest quarterly growth seen since the final quarter of 2010, analysis by online retail tracker IMRG has shown (illustrated).

Drinks Business reports that the level of expansion witnessed so far this year is double that seen in the same period in 2012. In March the year-on-year growth was 17%, up 7.7% on February.

The growing market share of e-commerce in the UK wine off-trade has also been highlighted by Tim Wilson, head of the wine market research firm The Wilson Report, in a talk given at The London Wine Fair.

He told attendees that the 11% of the wine off-trade currently owned by online case-sale retailers, such as Laithwaites Online, Naked Wines and Tesco Wine by the Case, will rise to 18% in as little as three years time. Online wine retail is expected to own 15% of the UK off-trade by 2018.

“Online wine retail is not only here to stay, but it is also going to grow,” he said.

In another key insight into the latest trends in the wine market, Wilson also highlighted the growing influence of online sales through mobile and tablet devices.

“Around 40% of Christmas-period sales [itself a time when online wine retailers average about 40% of their yearly sales] last year were done on mobile phones and tablets… And it won’t be long until it reaches 50%”, he claimed.

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Study: Alcohol treatment programmes slash male reoffending rates

Non-participants twice as likely to be charged and 2.5 times as likely to be reconvicted

A Plymouth University led study has shown that offenders enrolled in alcohol treatment programmes as part of their sentence are significantly less likely to be charged or reconvicted 12 months on.

Researchers from the university’s School of Psychology led a project which saw males with alcohol problems related to offending being assigned to a range of different treatments when convicted.

They then calculated offenders’ charged and reconviction rates over the following year, which indicated that those treated were less likely to do so. The Low Intensity Alcohol Program (LIAP) was seen as the most successful and cost-effective of the interventions.

The study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, also involved the former Devon and Cornwall Probation Service, the University of Exeter and the Virginia Commonwealth University in the United States.

From a total of 564 male offenders, 423 were assigned by the courts in equal numbers (141 each) to one of three alcohol treatment programmes: a Low Intensity Alcohol Program (LIAP), an Alcohol Specified Activity Requirement (ASAR), and Addressing Substance-Related Offending (ASRO), while a fourth set of offenders served as a control group.

Survival analysis was used to calculate participants’ charged and reconviction rates over four time periods leading up to a year after completion of the experiment. Results indicated that offenders who did not participate in such programmes were twice as likely to be charged and 2.5 times more likely to be reconvicted.

The paper’s authors – led by PhD student Marie Needham, Dr Michaela Gummerum and Dr Yaniv Hanoch from Plymouth University – also noted that such programmes could also have cost benefits, with the bill for placing one person in prison being up to 37 times higher than assigning that person to a community-based alcohol treatment programme.

They concluded: “Our findings provide novel and valuable evidence to support the practice of assigning male offenders to alcohol treatment interventions, as they show an indication that alcohol treatment programs could help reduce recidivism. Given the hundreds if not thousands of offenders who might be eligible to attend an alcohol treatment program each year, this could amount to substantial public savings.

“Beyond financial gains, committing fewer offences and staying out of prison have strong and continued benefits for the offenders, their families, and the community.”

Ian Clewlow, Deputy Chief Executive of the Dorset Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company, said:

“We welcome the news from this Plymouth University research that offenders and service users who participate on alcohol programmes are less likely to reoffend and be convicted than those that do not and this is a testament to the hard work of staff to make these programmes a success in the community.

“The newly created Dorset Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company with responsibility for probation services, alongside the National Probation Service, is committed to maintaining this activity.”

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Lower drink-drive limit to Scots level, urge Police Federation

Body wants to follow Scotland’s lead in cutting the legal limit from 80mg in every 100ml of blood to 50mg

Police rank-and-file leaders have called for tougher laws on alcohol that would mean drivers could be over the limit after just one pint.

The Federation, which represents police officers up to the rank of chief inspector, hopes the move will also help curb a rising tide of women drink drivers.

The issue was raised at the Federation’s annual conference in Bournemouth (19 – 21 May), which focussed on the challenges facing police forces in dealing with female drink-drivers, in light of a study published by Social Research Associates last year.

Speaking in the Daily Telegraph, Victoria Martin of the Police Federation said: “We would like to see a lower drink drive limit as most other European countries have as well as Scotland which saw a marked reduction in failed breathalyser tests as soon as the law was changed last year.

“We would also like to see road safety back on the national and local agenda.”

A change to the limit seen in Scotland would mean an average man would be limited to just under a pint of beer or a large glass of wine, and women to half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine.

Ms Martin said although men are still more likely to drink drive the growth in women over the limit was a concern.

She said: “We’ve seen a steep decline in men drink driving over the years, with targeted advertising campaigns which is great, but women don’t seem to be getting the same message.

“It seems we have a worrying trend with females still flouting the drink drive limit, sometimes scarily unaware, putting themselves and others in danger as well as adding to the drain on police resources.”

Commenting on the Federation’s position toward drink-driving, Dr Suzi Gage noted: “Alcohol has a negative impact on a variety of the skills needed for driving. Not only does it slow our reaction times, but it can impair our judgement too, which might make us more likely to get behind the wheel when we’ve had one or two too many. This is why we ourselves might not be best placed to judge whether we’re safe to drive or not, and emphasizes the need for legal limits.

“The Government have considered lowering the limit before, and even commissioned a report in 2010, which recommended the reduction take place, but the Government at the time concluded that better enforcement of the current law would be more effective.

“If the Police Federation are correct, and the message about the dangers of drink driving isn’t getting through to drivers, then the scientific evidence seems to support the idea that a reduction in the limit would lead to fewer accidents, as it seems that the more alcohol you drink, the more you are impaired.”

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Facebook can help reduce problem drinking among fresher students

Social media can have a positive influence on problem drinkers’ consumption habits, claim University of Sydney researchers

A pilot study published in the Drug and Alcohol Review reveals that exaggerated ‘boozy’ Facebook profiles are exacerbating drinking habits in young people, but correcting these misperceptions among peer groups can reduce drinking by up to 50%.

University students usually overestimate peer alcohol use, resulting in them ‘drinking up’ to perceived norms. Recent findings by the current authors show portraying oneself as ‘a drinker’ is considered by many students to be a socially desirable component of their Facebook identity, perpetuating an online culture that normalises binge drinking. But, they argued, social networking sites have yet to be utilised in social norms interventions.

So, the researchers used Facebook to deliver personalised private messages to a group of first-year university students identified as risky drinkers. The messages compared the individual’s drinking habits to those of their classmates and, in the case of the intervention group, pointed out incorrect assumptions about their friends’ drinking levels.

After one, and then three months follow-up, the students were questioned over their consumption habits. The quantity and frequency of alcohol consumed by intervention group during the previous month had significantly fallen. These changes held after three months.

In addition, intervention group perceived drinking norms became significantly more accurate. Dr Bradley Ridout, lead researcher from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Health Sciences, said the results were extremely encouraging, with those who received the feedback on average halving their drinking from 40 to 20 drinks per month.

“The Facebook intervention resulted in a reported 50% reduction in alcohol consumption, and these changes were still sustained three months later.”

He added that inflated drinking habits and party animal status on social media is giving young people a false impression of how much their friends drink and what is normal.

“The more drinking is depicted as socially desirable on Facebook, the more it perpetuates an online culture that normalises binge drinking,” said Dr Ridout.

“The truth is that most young people who drink usually do not do so at risky levels.

“We need to communicate and celebrate this fact, as evidence shows correcting inflated perceptions of how much their peers drink can have a big influence on young peoples’ behaviour.

“Our pilot study is the first to show the potential of using personalised Facebook feedback to try to counter views of peer drinking exacerbated by social media.”

The results follow a Michigan State University study released earlier this year which found that the heaviest Facebook users were most likely to consider consuming alcohol.

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Sturgeon: Member States need autonomy over alcohol policy

Sturgeon: Member States need autonomy over alcohol policy

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP has urged the European Union (EU) Commission to allow Member States greater control over public health policy.

In her maiden EU address to the European Policy Centre as First Minister, she cited the situation of the Scottish Government’s introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol as an example of why the EU should “allow Member States more autonomy to tackle pressing problems.”

Although the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Scotland Act was passed in June 2012, it is yet to be implemented owing to an industry challenge concerning its supposed EU trade law implications, led by the Scotch Whisky Association.

She told the audience: “Some years ago, the Scottish Parliament voted to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol, to tackle alcohol harm in our society. This issue is currently being considered by Scottish courts and the Court of Justice of the European Union – and, of course, it is entirely a matter for the courts to decide.

“However, in general and looking more to the future, we all recognise that the human, social and economic costs of alcohol harm demand substantive action... My view is that the EU policy should recognise that. They should give a higher priority to enabling Member States to take the decisions they deem necessary to protect life and promote health.

“And as it gives member states more flexibility in some areas, such as public health, the EU should focus its efforts instead on where

international co-operation can make the biggest difference.”

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Welsh Health Survey 2014: Older drinkers buck downward consumption trend

Those aged 55 years and over most likely to drink above guidelines on a weekly basis

Two in every five adults (40%) reported drinking above the recommended guidelines on at least one day in the past week during 2014, according to the latest Welsh Health Survey.

This figure, which includes around a quarter (24%) who reported binge drinking, represents a small decline in overall levels of drinking since 2008, when the current survey questions were introduced. This reduction has mainly been among younger adults, with some groups of older adults consuming more last year than six years ago.

Although drinking above guidelines was less common among the oldest drinkers, it was in those age groups that there were increases in the proportion of those drinking at harmful and hazardous consumption levels since 2008 (illustrated, below).

Most increases occurred among Welsh women aged over 55 years. Between 2008 and 2014, there was an increase of eight percentage points among 65-74 year-old women drinking above guidelines, and a doubling in the proportion of 65+ year-olds who were reported to binge drink.

Other figures were:

Men were more likely than women to report drinking above the recommended guidelines on at least one day in the past week (46% of men compared with 35% of women), and to report binge drinking (29% of men, 19% of women)

14% of adults reported that they were non-drinkers, and a further 38% reported that they drank less than once a week in 2014

Alcohol consumption decreased as deprivation increased with 47% of people in the least deprived quintile drinking above guidelines on one day in the previous week, compared with 34% for the most deprived. There was less variation for binge drinking, although this was slightly more likely among those in the least deprived quintile (age-standardised).

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Eurocare to F1 – alcohol ads must stop

FIA comes in for severe criticism, but racing chief rules out a ban on alcohol advertising

The head of Formula One’s governing body (FIA) has been called out for allowing alcohol companies the highest level of exposure of any global sport.

According to a study conducted by Eurocare, The Insititute of Alcohol Studies, and Monash University in Australia, for motor-racing’s showpiece event in Monte Carlo in 2014, the 500 million-strong audience not only witnessed an advert flash up every five seconds during coverage, but nearly 1,200 references to alcohol, the majority of on track-side signage. Three F1 teams – Williams (Martini), Force India (Smirnoff and Kingfisher), and McLaren (Johnnie Walker) – have prominent relationships with drinks companies.

Jean Todt responded to criticism by claiming responsibility for the matter was out of the organisation’s hands. Speaking at the International Transport Forum in Leipzig, Germany, he said: “I’m completely against, and advocating against, drinking and driving, but each country needs to make his own job.

“You cannot ban alcohol, it is not possible, but you can educate people not to drink and drive. So we are working very closely on that because we know it is an essential topic to be addressed.”

However, in a letter signed and sent to the United Nations, 108 road safety and transport organisations in 50 countries said that there were “multiple conflicts of interest” in Todt endorsing alcohol advertising and being the UN Special Envoy for road safety.

The authors of the report believe that F1 advertising and sponsorship practices go against the spirit of the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive as well as voluntary codes set up by the alcohol industry, and that motorsport would be best served by severing all ties with alcohol companies.

Katherine Brown, contributing author to the study and Director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies says: “Alcohol sponsorship of motorsport generates seriously mixed message about drink-driving and road safety, and contradicts the spirit of current EU rules on alcohol advertising. A common sense approach would be to stop alcohol companies from this risky business of sponsoring Formula 1.”

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FARE unveils alcohol plan to tackle Australian domestic violence

National framework for action to prevent alcohol-related family violence proposed by alcohol policy campaign group

Governments across the country are being urged to consider using an alcohol levy to pay for the cost of family violence on the community. The idea is part of a new 20-point framework by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, launched by domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty in Canberra.

Other ideas include reducing the availability of alcohol by restricting trading hours, ending all 24-hour liquor licences, and introducing a court-based sobriety program requiring offenders to undergo two breath tests a day or wear a continuous monitoring bracelet.

The foundation’s chief executive Michael Thorn has written to Prime Minister Tony Abbott asking for the plan to be put to the next meeting of state and territory leaders, as alcohol is a very big factor when it came to domestic violence. “We think that by attacking that particular pressure point we can not only reduce the incidents but also the severity”, he said.

Figures show (illustrated) that alcohol-related family violence accounts for between 23% and 65% of all family violence incidents reported to police. Between 2002-03 and 2011-12, 36% of perpetrators of intimate partner homicides used alcohol. Alcohol is also implicated in between 15% and 47% of child protection cases.

Australian of the Year Ms Batty said governments were showing genuine intent but needed to start taking action.

“Alcohol is a significant factor to all forms of violence, so what we really have to do is acknowledge that and work towards some solutions,” she said.

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Balance North East launches 7 cancers campaign

Raising awareness of the link between alcohol and the seven different types of cancer

Almost one million North Easterners are ignoring Government health guidelines and drinking at levels which are putting them at greater risk of seven types of cancer, says leading alcohol charity Balance North East.

Almost 2 in 5 of the region’s adults, around 813,000 people, are regularly drinking more than the recommended daily limits. These are 2-3 units for a woman – no more than a standard 175ml glass of wine – or 3-4 units for a man, which is a pint of strong lager.

Evidence shows that if you regularly drink above the guidelines the risk of developing cancer is higher than non-drinkers.

 

  • Men are 1.8 to 2.5 times as likely to get cancer of the mouth, neck and throat, and women are 1.2 to 1.7 times as likely
  • Women are 1.2 times as likely to get breast cancer
  • Men are twice as likely to develop liver cirrhosis, and women are 1.7 times as likely
  • Bowel cancer risk is 21% higher in people who drink around 1.5 to 6 units per day
  • However, more than 9 in 10 people in the region who regularly drink above the recommended limits believe they are light or moderate drinkers.

 

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “It’s important for people to realise that it’s not just heavy drinkers at risk, there is no safe level of alcohol and the more a person drinks, the greater the risk.”

“For many of us, the idea that alcohol can cause cancer is hard to accept. This comes as no surprise as low alcohol pricing, widespread availability and mass promotion has suggested alcohol is harmless. But it’s not.”

These concerning statistics have led Balance to launch a campaign to raise awareness of the link between alcohol and seven cancers including mouth, pharyngeal (upper throat), oesophageal (food pipe), laryngeal (voice box), bowel cancer, breast and liver.

The campaign will see a new hard-hitting advert aired on television screens from today (Monday 22nd June) over a four-week period. The advert features a woman enjoying lunch and a glass of wine with her partner when she spills some of her drink on her top. The stain changes to show a growing tumour on her breast.

For more information about Balance’s alcohol and seven cancers campaign alongside the TV advert, visit reducemyrisk.tv.

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