In this post, we discuss a number of ways we can reduce the harms done by alcohol. Alcoholism kills around two million people a year throughout the World. Even in the UK, there are around 14.0 deaths per 100,000 population each year. Thus, we feel it's important to campaign and fight for measures designed to reduce alcohol-related harm.
We do not advocate the total banning of alcohol. Why? Because history has taught us this is a poor way to reduce alcohol-related harm. In fact, where alcohol has been banned, there is substantial evidence to indicate alcohol-related harm has increased. How? Well, if you examine where alcohol has been banned, you will quickly discover a black market of 'bootleggers' arise. These bootleggers are typically criminal gangs. The black market for illegal alcohol provides these gangs with a vast stream of revenue. This typically damages society in many different ways.
Furthermore, banning alcohol also increases the production of 'moonshine.' Moonshine may contain harmful chemicals such as methanol, which also increase alcohol-related harm. Moonshine may also explode during the production process, and this may cause loss of human life.
Even Islamic Countries that ban alcohol are well known to suffer from high rates of alcoholism. This may sound contradictory, but these facts have been well established.
So how can we reduce alcohol-related harm without a full blown ban on alcohol? In this post, we attempt to answer this question.
Here, we provide six recommendations we feel could go some way to reducing alcohol-related harm. Note, this list is not exhaustive and we welcome any recommendations you may be able to make to help us to add to or improve this list.
Many people resist the idea of increasing the price of alcohol. Why? Because they feel moderate drinkers should not be 'penalised' due to the burden put on the NHS by heavy drinkers. However, we feel this argument is weakened by recent evidence suggesting even moderate drinking causes a range of cancers. This includes bowel cancer and breast cancer.
Over the last fifty years, alcohol has continued to decrease in price. This is despite the increase in tax levied on alcohol products. In the 1950s, alcohol was around three times the current price relative to people's income. Back in the 1950s, as a nation we drank around half as much alcohol. This correlation between the price of alcohol and the amount of alcohol we consume proves that increasing the price of alcohol would also reduce alcohol-related harm.
One way of increasing the price of alcohol is to introduce minimum unit pricing. This is set to be introduced in Scotland in the New Year, and analysts expect the rest of the UK to follow.
Another strategy would be to increase taxation on alcohol. This may be more beneficial to introducing minimum unit pricing. Why? Because the revenue service will receive money to help offset health costs arising through treating alcohol-related harm.
Whilst we don't support the outright ban of alcohol, we do support restricting the availability of alcohol. Why? Because research reveals there is a relationship between the availability of alcohol and alcohol-related harm. Restricting the availability of alcohol must focus on limiting the number of licensed venues in a certain area, and also restricting the amounts people drink whilst at home.
We advocate the overturning of the 24-Hour Licensing Act and also adopting the Swedish Model where drinks over 3% must be sold from licensed shops with limited opening hours. We also advocate a ban on supermarkets selling super-high strength, cut-priced alcoholic drinks.
We also support the banning of aggressive marketing of alcohol. These tactics include 'happy hours', 'all-you-can-drink' offers and 2-4-1 offers. Such practices encourage heavy drinking, resulting in alcohol-related harm.
We recommend the Government invests in national public-health campaigns to raise awareness of alcohol-related harm. We feel there is evidence that such campaigns could really reduce alcohol-related harm. For instance, the Government invested heavily in anti-smoking campaigns in the 2000s. However, in 2010, these campaigns were halted. This caused a dramatic decrease in the number of people seeking out help to quit smoking. We believe the same could be true for alcohol.
We also advocate a total ban on the advertising of alcoholic drinks. Why? Because alcohol causes cancer. Research proving this is relatively recent, and we feel it's now time for the Government to introduce legislation preventing the advertising of alcohol. We believe it is not fair to prohibit the advertising of tobacco products because they cause cancer whilst allowing the advertising of alcohol that also causes cancer.
We also advocate laws that would require alcohol products to include cigarette style warnings of the cancer risk associated with alcohol consumption.
Preventing binge drinking must be seen as a priority for lawmakers. This requires a change in thinking and a change in culture. One way to stop binge drinking would be to ban events that encourage binge drinking, such as the student event known as 'Carnage UK.' Carnage UK is a mass pub crawl. A crew of paramedics follow the crawl as it passes from pub to pub.
We also feel public organisations such as universities should take more responsibility in preventing binge drinking. This would include increasing the price of alcohol sold at university bars, and also banning events that try to encourage binge drinking.
Other measures to reduce binge drinking include: reducing glass sizes from 125ml rather than 175ml, ensuring the law is enforced so drunk customers are not served and provide bars with breathalysers to ensure these laws are followed.
We recommend the drink-driving limit be reduced to 40mg/100ml in blood. We also encourage the implementation of alcohol detectors in cars. These detectors prevent the car from starting if the driver is over the limit.
We also advocate the raising of the drinking age to 21. Why? Because a disproportionate number of drink-drive offences are committed by people under the age of 21. Reducing the drinking age would be one way to reduce the number of drink-drive offences and related deaths and injuries. In the USA, road deaths decreased by 11% when the drinking age was raised to 21 in the 1990s.
We advocate laws requiring licenced premises to also sell non-alcoholic beers and wines. This will encourage people to try non-alcoholic versions of their favourite alcoholic beverages. This allows people to feel accepted even if they choose not to drink alcohol. Licenced premises should also be required to sell non-alcoholic beers and wines at a substantially cheaper price than their alcoholic-alternatives.
The above measures would probably be extremely difficult to push through parliament, and subject to legal challenge from the alcohol industry. These measures would also come under stiff criticism from the tabloids. For the above measures to succeed, we would need real leadership from those in Government.
We feel successive Governments have failed to protect the public from alcohol-related harm, and we believe new research linking alcohol to cancer only highlights the need for the above measures to be introduced. However, we believe in time, alcohol will be subject to similar harm-reduction measures as tobacco has been subjected to over the last two decades.
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