News roundup: November 2018

December 2018 | 7 minutes

November's monthly roundup from the Alcohol Policy UK blog.

Each month we publish a news roundup from the Alcohol Policy UK blog.

In the news

Impact of MUP is starting to show

News reports on Scotland's Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP), implemented earlier this year, have been telling various stories about its impact. The Herald led with a headline that a 'surge' in the notorious 'tonic wine' Buckfast had resulted from MUP, leading to criticisms of the policy. However, the article states that “the reality appears to be more complex,” pointing out that while Buckfast sales rose by around 17%, Frosty Jacks white cider sales 'slumped from an average of 240 a day in 2017 to around 24 per day in 2018,' as also reported in the Scottish Sun.

The Herald also included quotes from Colin Angus of the Sheffield Alcohol Group who said a more relevant comparison would be with England where MUP is not currently in place, and where alcohol sales "rose by substantially more over the same period, suggesting that in the absence of MUP we might have seen a bigger rise in drinking in Scotland." However Angus also warned that it was too early to draw conclusions on the impact of MUP, and that "the real test of MUP will be in how drinking in Scotland changes over the next few years."

Ban on alcohol adverts before 9pm watershed in Scotland

Drink adverts in Scotland could be banned on TV before the 9pm watershed, the BBC reported, following Scotland's new national alcohol strategy. However, marketing regulation is decided by Westminster, so the Scottish Government need to ask the UK government to act or devolve powers to Holyrood. Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said the UK government was already committed to introducing a 9pm watershed for unhealthy food product advertising, and he would press for this to be extended to include alcohol.

Cuts to treatment budgets are taking their toll

Cuts to drug and alcohol treatment budgets has led to a 'desperate crisis', reported the Guardian in response to the latest figures on the numbers of people receiving drug and alcohol support. “The situation in terms of funding has been very tough for quite a few years and it’s time to protect and invest in alcohol treatment services,” said Steve Moffatt, public policy manager at Addaction.

Treatment cuts are also hitting hospital alcohol services, reports the Nursing Times. Challenges are also being presented by the merging of alcohol and drug services, potentially putting alcohol service users off, whilst the pool of nurses in England is drying up, leading to substance misuse treatment providers facing additional challenges in recruiting.

An alcohol-free childhood is best

Letting children try alcohol at home won’t deter binge drinking, reports the Guardian. The warning comes from health campaigners in the North-East of England, who have launched a campaign aimed at parents called What’s the Harm, which aims to raise awareness of Chief Medical Officers’ guidance that an alcohol-free childhood is best. Only 1 in 20 parents are aware of it according to Balance, whose Director Colin Shevills says, "People mention the French way of giving children alcohol – but France actually has twice the rate of alcohol dependence of the UK.” See the APUK analysis here.

Do plummeting temperatures lead to heavier drinking?

The headline 'How to curb your drinking on winter nights' appeared in the Guardian, reporting on a study identifying a correlation between heavier drinking and lower temperatures and fewer sunshine hours. However, academics cautioned against drawing strong conclusions from the findings, highlighting the wide range of influences on drinking behaviours, including price and cultural factors.

Young workers in Scotland worry sobriety affects career prospects

Young workers in Scotland believe not drinking alcohol can hinder their career prospects as they believe they won’t be able to socialise with their bosses after work, reports Glasgow Live. Over a quarter of Scottish workers aged 25-34 said they thought abstaining from booze dented their prospect of promotion.

Drunk pilot given jail sentence

A pilot who was ten times over the limit who attempted to fly a passenger jet from Heathrow was jailed for 10 months, reports the Independent. The pilot was stopped before flying after showing signs of inebriation and was reportedly caught gargling mouthwash to cover up the smell of alcohol on his breath.

Rise in NI alcohol poisoning in children

Alcohol poisoning among children is on the rise in Northern Ireland according to the BBC. The report says over the last six years 300 children were treated, up almost a fifth since 2013, despite a 40% drop in overall admissions.

Low and no alcohol product labels to remain unchanged

There will be no changes to the descriptors for low and no alcohol products, the Department of Health has ruled according to Drinks Retailing News. This follows a consultation held earlier this year as current rules expire.