Help us protect people from alcohol marketing in Scotland
Reviews of decades of research have shown that alcohol marketing leads young people to start drinking earlier, drink more, and drink at heavy or problematic levels. The Scottish government’s public consultation on restricting alcohol advertising and promotion in Scotland offers a real opportunity to create change and protect people from the problems associated with alcohol marketing. Your input will make a real difference, and Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) has created a list of key resources and contacts to support responses. Please get in touch with Nicola.Merrin@alcohol-focus-scotland.org.uk if you would like to discuss this further.
Alongside the consultation, AFS, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs (SFAD) and BMA Scotland are reinvigorating their campaign to protect children from alcohol marketing. The original campaign, launched in 2016, was supported by more than 40 organisations and over half of MSPs from the previous parliament, and helped to secure a commitment from the Scottish government to consult on the matter. Find out more here and lend your support to demonstrate the need for comprehensive restrictions to protect our children and young people.
Like a needle in a vineyard: Searching for health information on wine labels and websites
AFS, Alcohol Change UK, the AHA and Action on Sugar have published a report that examines research undertaken to analyse 30 bottles of wine from the top ten leading wine brands in the UK.
Lab analysis exposed the wide variation of sugar and calories between products. One 125ml glass of the wines analysed contained anywhere between 0g and 9.8g of free sugars and anywhere between 54.1 calories and 99.8 calories per glass. This and other health information is missing from most labels and is not available on websites, keeping people in the dark about what they are drinking.
We recommend that the UK and devolved governments use their powers to:
- mandate, monitor, and enforce the provision of health information on alcohol packaging
- specify the content and design of information in regulations, informed by consumer research, and developed free from industry influence.
Read the full report here.
Remeasuring the units: An update on the organisation of alcohol-related liver disease services
The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) have published an update to the 2013 Measuring the units report, which examined the care of patients who died in hospital from alcohol-related liver disease and made recommendations to improve the reliability of care delivery.
The update summarises the results of a survey undertaken across NHS hospitals in 2020/21 and a wider round table discussion on the topic in 2022. The report comes at a time when we are experiencing the highest number of alcohol-specific deaths on record and looks at improvements across the system as well as where deficiencies remain.
AHA chair Professor Sir Ian Gilmore contributed to the report, alongside colleagues from AHA member organisations including the British Liver Trust and the British Society of Gastroenterology.
Read the full report here, and a summary published in the Lancet here.
Submit your proposals for the 2023 Alcohol Occasionals series
SHAAP and the Scottish Alcohol Research Network (SARN) invite researchers to submit their research proposals for the 2023 Alcohol Occasionals series, held online. The theme this year is ‘alcohol in a changing world’ and the deadline for submission is 6 February 2023. This is a great opportunity to showcase alcohol research to a wide audience.
To learn more, visit our website.
Ten years of Dry January
Alcohol Change UK are celebrating 10 years of Dry January this year – read a recap how the initiative has evolved over past decade here.
Their website has a bunch of resources, including a series of blogs looking at how reducing alcohol consumption can help mental health, tips on how to manage sugar cravings during a sober stint and relationships advice.
Opening doors: ensuring access for all to alcohol support
Alcohol Change UK
2 March 2023
Managing drug and alcohol problems in primary care
Royal College of General Practitioners
16–17 March 2023
Meet the Members
Every month, we speak to a member of the AHA to find out more about what they do and how their organisation is working to end alcohol harm.
Today we meet Rob Calder, who has worked for the Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA) for just over 3 years. Prior to this, Rob spent 15 years working in addiction treatment services before completing a PhD on how to communicate research in ways that met clinicians needs.
How does your organisation help to reduce alcohol harm?
The SSA’s aim is to improve the scientific understanding of addiction, which means working to improve the evidence, and the communication of that evidence.
Our organisation looks to the evidence base and tries to be honest about the strength of that evidence. If policy and treatment is continually informed by evidence of effectiveness, then alcohol harms will be continually reduced.
We are one of the very few organisations that solely fund addiction-focused PhDs and post-doctoral fellowships. We also fund study bursaries, travel grants, conferences and projects that improve engagement with research.
What inspires you most in your job?
Almost everything, which is a lucky position to be in. If I had to pick one thing, I’d probably choose my work hosting the SSA and Addiction journal podcast, as they introduce me to amazing people and research. I’m constantly learning about new and important areas of study and spend much of my working life advocating for whatever research featured in my most recent interview.
The challenge of improving science communication in the sector is enormous. I’m grateful that I get to work on this with the wonderfully creative people in the SSA team, as well as with our media colleagues and people across the sector. The combination of addiction and science communication is almost unfathomably complex, which is terrifying, fascinating and inspiring.
What change do you think would make the biggest difference in reducing alcohol harm?
I know that providers and policymakers need to prioritise, but trying to identify the most important thing can lead to an ‘either/or’ framing, which doesn’t always help. It’s a multifaceted and complex problem with multifaceted and complex solutions.
There is, however, good evidence for minimum unit pricing, thanks to the amazing research from Scotland and other places where this has been trialled.
I also think that increased alcohol health literacy across health services is important. Several years ago, when I registered with a new GP, the practice nurse completed an AUDIT test with me. At the end, I asked what the score was and what it meant, to which the nurse shrugged, put the completed form back in my file, and it was never spoken of again. There are some amazing healthcare workers in the NHS, and researchers and policymakers must do more to help those workers use opportunities like this to have productive conversations.