BMA Scotland today [Monday 25 June 2007] published a five point plan to tackle Scotland's alcohol problem. The five demands where highlighted in a new paper published by BMA Scotland on the opening day of the BMA's annual UK conference in Torquay.
Alcohol kills six people every day in Scotland and doctors report an increase in the number of young people presenting to the NHS with serious illness resulting from alcohol misuse.
Drinking in moderation can be a source of pleasure however the effect of excessive alcohol consumption on our health and the related social and economic impact is significant. For example, the number of patients discharged from hospital with alcoholic liver disease has more than doubled in the past ten years.
The plan calls upon the Scottish Executive to:
1. Utilise the legislative capabilities of the 2005 Licensing (Scotland) Act, to end deep discounting of alcohol for sale in off licences, supermarkets and other off sales outlets.
Cheap drinks promotions which encourage people to buy more alcohol, particularly in supermarkets and off licenses must be controlled. Some supermarkets are running alcohol products as a 'loss leader' which in some cases has resulted in alcohol being cheaper than bottled water.
2. Undertake research into the measures by which pricing mechanisms can be used in Scotland to discourage heavy consumption of high alcohol products.
Strong evidence suggests that increasing the price of alcohol may be an effective method of reducing use by adolescents (1).
3. End alcohol producers' sponsorship of sporting and entertainment events with a young target audience.
Sponsoring entertainment and sporting events and sports teams has become an important advertising mechanism for the alcohol industry. However, the exposure of children to alcohol's linkage to entertainment events or sporting activities gives alcohol innocence by association.
4. Legislate for alcohol labelling rather than relying on voluntary agreements with the drinks industry.
More than eight out of 10 doctors believe that alcoholic drinks manufacturers should be compelled to clearly label their products with the number of units of alcohol in each product (2).
5. Reduce the drink driving limit from 80mg to 50mg and introduce Random Breath Testing in Scotland.
Reducing the drink driving limit from 80mg to 50mg will prevent around 65 deaths in the UK each year (3). Legislating to reduce the drink drive limit is a matter reserved to Westminster. BMA Scotland calls upon the Scottish Executive to exert pressure on the UK government to consider reducing drink driving limits. In addition, the introduction of random roadside breath testing would be a vital element in deterring people from drinking and driving and could be implemented by the Scottish Parliament. The introduction of random roadside breath testing would be a vital element in deterring people from drinking and driving, and could be implemented by the Scottish Parliament.
Announcing the plan, Dr Peter Terry, chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said:
"The death toll from alcohol misuse is completely unacceptable and government must take action. Our action plan sets out a range of measures that the Scottish Executive can take forward as part of a wider strategy.
"Most people enjoy a drink and we don't want to end the right of individuals to have that choice, however we want to encourage adults to drink in moderation, rather than drinking to get drunk.
"Worryingly, more and more teenagers are drinking at an earlier age and we must do more to combat this trend. Increasing price is one part of a strategy that can deter children from purchasing alcohol. The BMA would also like to see more done in primary schools to educate children about the dangers of drink before they are drawn in by industry advertising.
"After smoking, alcohol is next big public health priority and I want Scottish Ministers to work with doctors to end Scotland's drink problem."