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by Alison Douglas
15 September 2020
Associate feature: Putting prevention first on alcohol

Associate feature: Putting prevention first on alcohol

Personal choice versus the nanny state. That’s the way that public health prevention is characterised by opponents. But with one quarter of Scots regularly drinking more than recommended, surely there’s more to it?

Alcohol has become part of our everyday lives. We’ve swallowed the idea that we need a drink to celebrate, socialise or commiserate. Alcohol has crept into places like cinemas and coffee shops - even hairdressers. Sponsorship by alcohol brands has been woven into the fabric of the sports we love, capitalising on our emotional connections to teams and players. All of this encourages us to drink more. 

Yet, alcohol causes the deaths of 10 Scots every day. As well as liver cirrhosis, it causes cancer, heart disease and stroke and can affect our mental health. It’s those of us who experience the greatest inequalities who suffer most, being seven times more likely to die due to alcohol.

The good news is that we know what works. Prevention improves lives and reduces demand on the NHS.  That’s why Alcohol Focus Scotland supports the call for prevention to be at the heart of Scotland’s recovery.

We have a strong track record of global health firsts. Evidence shows minimum unit pricing has reduced off-sales in Scotland by 4-5% in its first year, compared to England and Wales. Its impact has been most positive on those who suffer most, helping to close the inequalities gap.

However, inflation means that we may not be getting the most out of this life-changing policy. Now is the time for the Scottish Government to review and raise the minimum unit price.

We also need to turn our attention to tackling how heavily marketed and easily available harmful products are. Children have told us they see alcohol all around them, all the time.  It’s time we stopped exposing them to alcohol marketing and protected their right to grow up healthy and happy, free from alcohol harm.

We must continue to prioritise Scotland’s health and wellbeing by putting prevention first. We can’t afford not to.

This piece was sponsored by Alcohol Focus Scotland

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