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Major new report reveals what we think about drink

Government urged to increase alcohol duty ahead of budget

Government urged to increase alcohol duty ahead of budget

Posted 13/02/18

Eight in 10 North Easterners think the UK’s relationship with alcohol is ‘unhealthy’, a major new report has revealed.

And nearly six out of ten (58%) of North Easterners also believe the Government isn’t doing enough to tackle the problems society has with alcohol, such as ill health, violent crime, domestic abuse and anti-social behaviour.

“How We Drink, What We Think” was carried out by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, and is the first ever report into the “state of the region” when it comes to the North East’s relationship with alcohol.

The findings in the report were collected through an online survey of 2,083 people living within the region. Key findings also include:

• Over half (54%) of those surveyed would support the introduction of a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol with only 19% objecting.
• 71% of people believe the Government should be responsible for communicating the health risks and harms associated with alcohol.
• Only 16% of people were aware of the Chief Medical Officer’s drinking guidelines of no more than 14 units per week for men and women.
• Over one in four drinkers (26%) in the region are drinking above the Chief Medical Officer’s drinking guidelines of no more than 14 units per week for men and women. Worryingly 84% of people drinking more than 14 units consider themselves “light” or “moderate” drinkers.
• 83% would support measures which would force alcohol companies into providing clear, legible alcohol consumption guidelines on labels.
• 75% would strongly welcome reductions in the drink drive limit supporting a move to the same limit which now applies in Scotland.
• More than six in 10 believed that the industry should pay for reducing alcohol harm.
• 67% agreed that children should be protected from alcohol advertising and marketing.

The report finds people in the North East are more likely to say that the country has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol than people elsewhere in the country. They are also more likely to think the Government is not doing enough to tackle society’s problems with the drug or to provide help to those most in need, and more likely to closely associate a whole range of health issues and crime with alcohol use.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “This new report clearly shows that we have a problem with alcohol here in the North East and that the majority believe not enough is being done to tackle the harm that alcohol causes. Most people have a strong appetite to want to do something about it.

“It also shows that in the region we are better informed of the harms of alcohol than the country as a whole; yet worryingly many of us under-estimate the risks we take by drinking above the recommended weekly drinking guidelines.”

Both men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week in order to keep health risks from drinking to a low level according to the new Chief Medical Officers’ drinking guidelines. The report highlights that 36% of men in the region are drinking above the guidelines, while the figure for women is 16%.

Colin added: “The results also show people don’t have the information they need to make an informed decision about alcohol as adults and also for their children.

“Adults surveyed were much more familiar with the kind of myths associated with children and alcohol than the Chief Medical Officer’s advice that children shouldn’t drink alcohol at all before the age of 15.

“Encouragingly there is strong support in the region to want the Government to do more to tackle alcohol harm and North Easterners would support a range of measures – from health warning labels on bottles to the introduction of a minimum unit price – to tackle the issue.

“It is high time the Government stepped up and introduced a comprehensive, evidence-based strategy with the intention of making alcohol less affordable, less available and less desirable. Alcohol is 60% more affordable now than it was in 1980 and is available almost everywhere.

“At the very least, the Government must promote the Chief Medical Officers’ drinking guidelines for adults and children as a matter of urgency.”

The report comes at a time when a recent audit of 300 alcohol products by the Alcohol Health Alliance found that only one contained the CMO low risk drinking guidelines.

In 2015/16 alcohol was estimated to have cost the North East:

• £209 million in NHS and healthcare for services such as hospital admissions, A&E attendances, ambulance callouts and also treatment for alcohol dependency.

• £331 million in crime and disorder, including 55,300 cases of criminal damage, 154,900 cases of theft and 20,000 cases of violence against the person.

• £353 million lost to local businesses and employers through absenteeism, lost productivity and alcohol related deaths, including 548,400 days off and 8,249 potential years of working life lost due to alcohol related deaths.

• £121 million in costs to children and adults’ social services and substance misuse services.

Further reading

13 February 2018

How We Drink What We Think 2018

The North East's relationship with alcohol

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