At Dumbarton Area Council on Alcohol (DACA), we see first-hand the human cost of alcohol harm.
We see people suffering with chronic poor health, dying well before their time.
We see spouses struggling to stay together as the ripple effect of a partner’s drinking takes its toll.
We see children separated from their parents because home is not a safe place to be.
We see vulnerable people trying to dull the pain of childhood trauma inadvertently creating a whole new world of harm for themselves.
And we only see a fraction of the people in our community who are suffering from alcohol-related harm.
We know that the scale of the problem is so large that most people reading this will know someone — a friend, a neighbour, a family member or a work colleague — who has been affected by the harms of alcohol.
Alcohol is an integral part of our culture which we associate with having a good time but the societal costs of our collective hangover is now reaching epic proportions and, as usual, it is the poorest communities and families who are hardest hit.
- 22 Scots die every week from alcohol (Alcohol-related Deaths in Scotland).
- 1 in 2 people report being harmed by someone else’s drinking (Scottish Crime and Justice Survey).
- 51,000 children live with a parent who has an alcohol problem (Scottish Health Survey).
- Alcohol harm costs Scotland £3.6 billion every year (Societal Cost of Alcohol Misuse in Scotland).
- Alcohol harm costs West Dunbartonshire £40.6m per year — that’s £449 for every citizen (Local Cost of Alcohol Profile). That cost is carried by our health service, our social care services and other support providers, the police and the criminal justice system, businesses and our local economy.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Evidence from around the world shows there are effective laws which governments can enact to drastically reduce the harm of alcohol across the whole population, and particularly for high risk groups.
The most effective way to change behaviour and reduce alcohol consumption is legislative, although the drinks industry has a powerful lobbying machine which doesn’t want to see measures introduced which will impact their profits. The Scotch Whisky Association went to considerable lengths to try and thwart the Scottish Government’s minimum unit pricing policy, and was able to hold up its implementation for over five years. And they continue to push government towards a reduction in domestic taxation on alcohol.
At DACA we are asking our parliamentary candidates to listen to the needs of our community — not just the drinks industry.
Here are some policies and laws they could support which will have long-lasting positive impact for people in West Dunbartonshire.
- Increase alcohol taxes, particularly on high strength cider and spirits (alcohol sales in Scotland fell to their lowest level since records began in the first year since the Scottish Government introduced Minimum Unit Pricing)
- Introduce mandatory unit, calorie and ingredient labelling on alcohol packaging in line with all other food and drink products (doctors have called for health information and warning labels on all alcohol)
- Introduce prominent health warnings on all alcohol products, similar to those on tobacco (despite alcohol being a risk factor for 7 types of cancer just 13% of people in UK are aware it can cause cancer according to a 2016 study)
- Remove alcohol adverts from cinemas for under 18 films and before 9pm on TV (in Norway alcohol advertising has been banned since 1975)
- Gradual removal of alcohol sponsorship from sports, music and cultural events
- Establish an independent body to regulate alcohol marketing
- Introduce a social responsibility levy so alcohol retailers contribute to the wider cost of their activities on the community
- Make the licensing system more transparent, accessible and accountable to local people, starting with user-friendly reporting.
So next time a parliamentary candidate comes calling and looking for your vote why not ask them what they intend to do to reduce the harmful impact of alcohol on our community.
- Will you support mandatory unit/calorie/ingredient labelling on alcohol? Why should the drinks industry be allowed to regulate this themselves when all other food and drink products are clearly marked?
- Will you vote in favour of increasing alcohol duties, particularly on high strength ciders and spirits?
- Will you support establishing an independent body to regulate alcohol marketing and advertising?
We’d love to know how you get on — DM us on Twitter or drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org