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Highland Life / News / NHS Highland / Attitude to alcohol needs to change

Attitude to alcohol needs to change

Issued: 6 Sep 2010

NHS Highland welcomes and fully supports the Scottish Government proposal to apply a minimum price of 45p per unit of alcohol. The Scottish Health Survey has said just this week that Scots are more likely to binge drink and exceed weekly recommended safe drinking limits compared to the rest of the UK. The survey also revealed that Scots drink almost a quarter more on a daily basis than our counterparts in England and Wales, with this in mind NHS Highland Chair Garry Coutts believes it is time our attitude towards alcohol changed. He said: “We are already doing a lot to combat this problem in Scotland through education and public health campaigns. I believe however the time has come to take a much more radical and responsible approach to reducing consumption. “Applying a minimum price of 45p per unit will directly impact on the cheap drinks currently available. For example own brand high strength cider currently sold on average at 17p per unit will increase from around £2.80 to £7.50 for 3 litres. At the moment for less than £5 per week, men can exceed the recommended safe limits”. “How can it be acceptable that soft drinks, in particular water, are more expensive than alcohol? NHS Highland was happy to support the proposal for minimum pricing when we were consulted on this last year and continue to support the policy”. Sales of alcohol in supermarkets are more than double that in bars and clubs, this trend is undoubtedly being driven by the lower priced alcohol available in supermarkets. It also means that people are drinking in uncontrolled environments rather than licensed premises which afford a level of supervision. With alcohol sales data suggesting that since 2005 enough alcohol has been sold every week for every adult to exceed the recommended safe drinking limits for men (21 units) the effect on health cannot be under-estimated. Scotland sees, on average, 115 hospital discharges per day due to alcohol misuse. Over the past five years the number of alcohol related discharges from Scottish acute hospitals has risen by 9% to around 42,000 in 2008-9. Dr Margaret Somerville, NHS Highland’s Director of Public Health said: “We have a serious and growing problem with alcohol in our area that requires us all to work in partnership to address the issues affecting our communities. “Over the past 20 years Scotland has had one of the fastest growing chronic liver disease and cirrhosis mortality rates in the world, at a time when rates in most of Western Europe are falling. “If we want to reverse the trend of people losing their health prematurely due to harmful drinking, we need to make major changes in attitudes and behaviours. “As Director of Public Health and Chair of the Highland Alcohol & Drugs Partnership, I support the raft of measures included in the Scottish Government’s proposals, and minimum pricing is a key element. There is a lot of evidence showing that the cheaper it is to buy alcohol, the more alcohol is consumed. Heavy drinkers in particular are very price sensitive." Mr Coutts added: “People should not be fooled by the argument that imposing a minimum price will have an adverse effect on their shopping bill, the cost increases for responsible drinkers will be minimal if at all.”

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