The recent focus given by the MPs Liam Byrne and Jonathan Ashworth to the plight of children and families of alcoholics has shed a welcome light on an important question – how best do we support individuals and families affected by substance misuse.
However, the use of exaggerated numbers to support the cause is misleading and unhelpful. The recent reports claim 2.5 million children live with an alcoholic parent. Yet according to the references provided this is in fact untrue by a factor of more than three. The reference given in the APPG “Manifesto for Change” to a report by the Children’s Commissioner leads to data on hazardous drinking not alcohol dependency – these are very different things –and it clearly states that there are 700,000 children of dependent drinkers not 2.5 million.
The reference also refers to a report written in 2012 that relies on a study published in 2009 that no doubt used even older data. It ignores that fact that over the past 13 years alcohol consumption per head in the UK has fallen, harmful and binge drinking is down and young people drink less than ever. UK society is becoming ever more moderate and abstemious. It would be far better to have a debate that is honest and balanced not out of date, inaccurate or misleading.
Commenting on today’s figures from ONS showing a fall in the number of deaths from alcohol Dave Roberts Director General of the Alcohol Information Partnership said
“Today’s figures are encouraging news. In the UK people are drinking less than in previous years. The vast majority of people drink within the Governments new guidelines and in a convivial manner.
The U.K. is a good example of how partnerships between the public sector, retailers, licensees and industry can help deliver positive results.”
Sir – Katherine Brown and Roger Williams are wrong to make exaggerated claims about the cost of alcohol to society (letter 1st February). Their claim of £52billion does not appear in the recent Public Health England report.
Reflecting on similar claims about the cost of alcohol that proved to be unreliable it can be assumed that these new extravagant figures are based on flimsy evidence and assumptions designed to mislead. The huge and inflated costs used tend to include a significant percentage (circa70%) of indirect and vague social costs, with police services being as low as 3% of the total and the NHS at little more than 10%.
The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), which receives its funding from the Alliance House Foundation (formerly the UK Temperance Alliance) – is a ring leader of the anti-alcohol lobby. It is in the interests of IAS to present the UK as a wild west where excessive alcohol consumption is plaguing our lives. Katherine Brown and others habitually mislead, as we saw when Public Health England, advised by Ms Brown, mistakenly claimed to the media that alcohol consumption in the UK had tripled over the past few decades, when in fact it is the same today as it was in the 1970s and has fallen for the past 13 years.
Official Government figures show that in the UK people are drinking less each year, that underage drinking is falling, alcohol related crime is down and binge drinking is reducing. The number of people that choose not to drink alcohol has increased to nearly 20%. The vast majority of those that do choose to drink do so within the new CMO guidelines and in a convivial manner.
The public sector, retailers, licensees and industry continue to work tirelessly to reduce harm caused by inappropriate alcohol consumption. Their work is made harder when people make exaggerated claims in order to pursue their own ideological agenda.
Sir Ian Gilmore and Kieran Moriarty are wrong to use partial and misleading evidence to imply that the current pressure on NHS A&E departments could be resolved by increasing the cost of a bottle of wine or spirits. (letter 27th January).
It appears that the data they use is from a survey at one busy urban hospital on a Saturday night and the 70% figure for alcohol related attendances relates to a brief period during the very early hours. The impression they are trying to give is that we are experiencing an outbreak of wild drunkenness that is bringing our NHS to its knees.
Government data paints a very different picture. The past 13 years have seen consumption fall, underage drinking falling year on year and alcohol related crime and drink driving down and young people drink less now than they have ever done. While there remain a minority that drink irresponsibly and need targeted support the vast majority of people that choose to drink alcohol do so within the Chief Medical Officers new guidelines and in a convivial manner.
Public services, retailers, licenses and the industry continue to work hard to reduce harm caused by inappropriate drinking . Their task is undermined and made harder when eminent individuals make misleading claims to support a preferred policy position.
I write with regard to the recent article Politicians call for watershed on alcohol TV ads to protect kids that reported some local politicians desire to restrict the times alcohol can be advertised on TV. The politicians expressed concern for underage drinking and the drinking habits of young people and linked this to a rise in hospital admissions.
It appears that the Councillors involved in this campaign may be confused or have not been given the full picture. Official data shows that young people in the UK drink less and less every year and that underage drinking continues to fall as attitudes among teenagers harden against the appropriateness of underage drinking.
The article quotes Councillors from Trafford and Stockport – readers may be interested to know that in Trafford, Stockport and across the region admissions to hospital for underage drinking continue to fall. In Trafford Public Health England data shows that since 2006/7 the admission rate has more than halved from 69.7 per 100,000 to 32.1 and is now below the national average. In Stockport, admissions fell 32% since 2006/07. Underage admissions do need to fall further and more work needs to be done, for example to enforce the law on the underage purchasing of alcohol.
Official data shows that the consumption of alcohol per head in the UK has fallen over the past decade and the number of teetotallers has increased to nearly 20%. Recent data has also shown that the vast majority of those that choose to drink alcohol do so within the Chief Medical Officers new reduced guideline amounts.
Experience in France shows that introducing additional restrictions on advertising does little to reduce youth drinking as teenage consumption rates have risen since the introduction of the Loi Evin 20 years ago.
In the UK reductions in underage and youth drinking are being achieved by interested parties working together to target harm – not through additional state regulation or restrictions.
Commenting on the State of Child’s Health Report Dave Roberts Director General of the Alcohol Information Partnership said
Underage consumption of alcohol in the UK has been falling for many years as young people themselves develop a less accepting attitude to underage drinking. In the last decade, the proportion of secondary school pupils who thought it was OK to get drunk has fallen from 46% to 24% (HSCIC) and the proportion of children aged 11-15 that have had an alcoholic drink has declined by 38% (HSCIC).
According to data from the government Health and Social Care Information Centre the number of children that have had a drink in the past week is now at only 8%.
In every region of England underage hospital admissions due to alcohol are falling, including in those areas that in the past have been disproportionately affected by alcohol-related harms, such as the North West (down 54%) and North East (down 46%). (PHE
While the fall in underage drinking is to be welcomed it is important that family members and friends do not facilitate children drinking by buying alcohol on behalf of a young person.
Partnerships between retailers, public services, licensees and industry are working to prevent the purchase of alcohol by underage teenagers. It is through these partnerships that further progress can be made.
Commenting on the special edition of Addiction on alcohol marketing Dave Roberts Director General of the Alcohol Information Partnership said
This report appears to have little to offer the UK.
In the UK alcohol consumption, harmful drinking and underage drinking have all been falling year on year.
Official data shows the vast majority of people drink in moderation and in a convivial manner. A self-regulatory framework and a partnership approach have clearly been working.
The best way to reduce alcohol related harm is to target programmes and policies at harmful drinkers.
Instead of restricting companies freedom to operate and compete it would be better for Government to focus on understanding what has worked so well over the past decade and encourage more of the same. Where there are pockets of harm intervention should be directed towards those communities or age groups.
In the UK there is no evidence to show that alcohol sponsorship increases consumption or misuse of alcohol, either by adults or by those who are underage, or that bans on alcohol sponsorship are effective in addressing harmful drinking.
Self-regulation is the most appropriate and cost effective way to ensure responsible advertising and marketing.
Unfortunately there is a misperception that believes self-regulation is simply the industry sitting in judgement on itself. It isn’t, and it shouldn’t be. There is also a misperception that self-regulation is incapable of moving quickly; in reality, relying on the courts to rule on individual code breaches would be much slower, more expensive and less efficient.
Under self-regulatory systems, consumers get a fast, concrete answer to their concerns: complaints are usually handled within three to 30 working days, which is much faster than court actions. The process avoids red tape and lengthy procedures, relieving the burden on the legal system and costs tax payers nothing. Rules can be adapted quickly as society and technology change, providing an additional layer of protection to consumers without the need for lengthy legislative procedures.
For more info please call Dave on 07733323350
Commenting on todays from HSCIC Dave Roberts Director General of the Alcohol Information Partnership said
The data shows that most people in the UK continue to enjoy a drink in a convivial and moderate manner.
The continued trend in reduced underage drinking to the lowest levels ever recorded is an example of the effective work being done by local partnerships across the country. Working together at a local level is producing welcome results as we see fewer children drinking and younger adults adopting more moderate drinking patterns.
There are still some areas of England and particular groups in society where more work needs to be done to reduce alcohol misuse. Partnerships between industry, licensees, the public services and retailers are the best way to achieve the desired reduction in alcohol misuse.
It is clear that the local partnership approach taken at the moment is working. In many towns and cities the public services, industry, licensees and retailers are working together to produce significant changes.
Todays figures reflect the controversial changes made by the Chief Medical officer to the drinking guidelines in January 2016. By reducing the male guideline from 21 to 14 units per week, 2.5 million men who were drinking at sensible levels were reclassified overnight as riskier drinkers. This change from the CMO has given a statistical increase in risky drinking of 12%. The new data shows that the average male consumption is 14.9 units per week, less than it was 5 years ago. Under the old established guidance this average would have been classified as well inside the lowest risk category.
During the festive season those that choose to drink alcohol should remember to drink in moderation and never drink and drive.
For further information please contact Dave Roberts on 07733323350
Commenting on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm report released today Dave Roberts Director General of the Alcohol Information Partnership said
“All anti-social behavior, violence or abuse is totally unacceptable and the perpetrators should be punished.
Having had a drink is no excuse for abusive or violent behavior, when out for the night or at home.
When out for a fun night with friends the vast majority of people enjoy having a drink in a convivial manner without causing any trouble at all.
It is only a disruptive minority that damage our night time economy and spoil the fun for sensible and responsible drinkers having a good time in pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants. Any response to the problems should acknowledge the current decline in consumption and build on the good partnership work being done already to reduce harm.
Any response should avoid punishing the vast majority because of the behavior of a minority. For example according to the Office of National Statistics harmful drinking has fallen by 22% since 2005 and the number of violent incidents committed by offenders perceived to be under the influence of alcohol has fallen by 40% since 2007.”
Commenting on today’s comprehensive alcohol report from Public Health England Dave Roberts Director General of the Alcohol Information Partnership said
Today’s report from PHE is comprehensive in nature and is a contribution to understanding the role of alcohol in society and the options for reducing harm caused by misuse.
PHE are claiming that we are now drinking ‘twice as much’ as we did 40 years ago. In fact in the UK we drink almost exactly the same amount today as we did in 1976 (HMRC) and less than we did 10 years ago. (www.portmangroup.org.uk/research/trends-in-alcohol )
It appears that PHE are contradicting the government’s own figures.
The report fails to acknowledge the positive trends in the UK (see details below)
In the UK alcohol consumption is falling, alcohol specific hospital admissions among the under 18s and under 40s are reducing and harmful drinking is in decline. The work being done by all involved has clearly been working.
Minimum Unit Pricing is an untested policy built on modelling and forecasting, the evidence behind its claims is poor and controversial.
MUP has the potential to penalise moderate and responsible drinkers and increase the cost of enjoying a convivial drink without tackling serious misuse.
Any harm caused by alcohol is always serious. However the vast majority of people who choose to drink do so in moderation and in a convivial manner
The data indicates that to reduce the risk of harm people should eat well, exercise, not smoke and if they choose to drink alcohol they should do so in moderation and within guidelines.
For further information please call Dave on 07733323350
Key positive trends in alcohol:
In the last decade alcohol consumption has fallen by 18%. (HMRC, BBPA)
Today, the UK drinks less alcohol than 16 other European countries: Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland , Poland, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Croatia, Finland, Latvia, Serbia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Lithuania (World Health Organisation)
On average, 76% of adults (84% of women and 68% of men) do not exceed low risk guidelines – 14 units per week (HSCIC)
Harmful drinking (more than 9 units for women or 12 units for men in a single occasion) has fallen by 22% since 2005 (ONS)
Overall, binge drinking (more than 6 units for women or 8 units for men in a single occasion) has fallen by 14% since 2005. Binge drinking among the 16-24 and 25-44 age groups has fallen 33% and 20% respectively. (ONS)
Overall, the proportion of adults drinking in the last week has declined by 9% since 2005. (ONS)
The proportion of adults who drank on five or more days in the last week has declined by 33% since 2005. (ONS)
The proportion of children (11-15 years old) who have had an alcoholic drink has declined 38% since 2004 (HSCIC)
In the last decade, the proportion of secondary school pupils who thought it was OK to try alcohol has fallen by 28% (HSCIC)
In the last decade, the proportion of secondary school pupils who thought it was OK to get drunk has fallen by 42% (HSCIC)
The number of violent incidents committed by offenders perceived to be under the influence of alcohol has fallen by 40% since 2007. (ONS)
The proportion of people witnessing alcohol-related anti-social behaviour has fallen 18% since 2011/12 (since data collection began) (ONS)
The proportion of people who found alcohol-related anti-social behaviour to be a ‘very’ or ‘fairly big’ problem in their area has fallen by 25% since 2005/6. (ONS)
The total number of drink driving casualties (slight, serious and killed) has fallen by 52% since 2004. (DfT)
The number of drink-driving deaths has fallen by 85% since 1979 (DfT)
The total number of drink driving accidents (slight, serious and killed) has fallen by 50% since 2004. (DfT)
Notes to Editors
The Alcohol Information Partnership is comprised of eight alcoholic beverage producers:
Diageo Great Britain
Pernod Ricard UK
Brief biography for Dave Roberts
Chief Executive of the National Clinical Homecare Association
Strategic communications adviser to Wiltshire Public Health and NHS Wiltshire
Adviser to Family and Childcare Trust
Lead strategist for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust – leading the campaign to introduce the HPV vaccine to prevent causes of cervical cancer
Head of Communications Wiltshire Health Authority
For further information, please contact: Dave Roberts on 07733323350 or email@example.com
The Alcohol Information Partnership is registered at Companies House. Company number: 10314408
- Overall, binge drinking has fallen by 19% since 2005. There have been significant declines in binge drinking for the 16-24 and 25-44 age groups, down 33% and 20% respectively. (ONS) https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/drugusealcoholandsmoking/bulletins/opinionsandlifestylesurveyadultdrinkinghabitsingreatbritain/2014
- In the last decade, the proportion of children (11-15) who have had an alcoholic drink has declined by 38%. (HSCIC) http://digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB17879
In the last decade, the proportion of secondary school pupils who thought it was OK to try alcohol has fallen by 28% (HSCIC) http://digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB17879
In the last decade, the proportion of secondary school pupils who thought it was OK to get drunk has reduced from 46% to 24% (HSCIC) http://digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB17879
Under 18 alcohol-specific hospital admissions have fallen by 46% since 2008, and by 8% in the last year alone (2012/13 – 2014/15). (PHE) http://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/local-alcohol-profiles/data
In every region of England underage hospital admissions due to alcohol are falling, including in those areas that in the past have been disproportionately affected by alcohol-related harms, such as the North West (down 54%) and North East (down 46%). (PHE) http://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/local-alcohol-profiles/data
- In 2014, there were 8,697 alcohol-related deaths registered in the UK. Alcohol-related deaths have fallen since a peak in 2008. The majority of deaths (65%) were among males. Alcohol-related deaths for both males and females are more prevalent in the North of the country. (ONS) https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/bulletins/alcoholrelateddeathsintheunitedkingdom/registeredin2014 Alcohol-related hospital admissions for those aged under 40 have declined over the past six years(PHE) http://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/local-alcohol-profiles/data