Damage from alcohol ‘can cost £615 a head’
ALCOHOL-related harm costs up to £615 per person in Scotland, new figures claim.
The charity Alcohol Focus Scotland has produced a regional breakdown which shows how much is spent on alcohol problems across Scotland.
The figures were calculated by assessing the financial cost excess drinking has on the health service, policing, social care and loss of productive capacity in all 32 local authority areas.
Glasgow City Council’s area tops the list, with alcohol-related harm costing £364.79 million in 2010-11 – the equivalent of £615 per person.
This was followed by Aberdeen at £557 per person, then Dundee with £492.
The areas where alcohol-related harm costs the least were East Renfrewshire at £214 per person, East Dunbartonshire at £244 and Aberdeenshire at £262. It is the first time the charity has released regional figures which were worked out using the same methods as a previous Scottish Government study in 2010, which found overall cost of alcohol misuse across the country was £3.6 billion a year.
Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “It is clear that alcohol is costing us all too much.”
The health charity produced the new figures ahead of its annual licensing conference and experts believe they show a need for local licensing boards to take action to restrict the availability of drink in their areas.
Dr Gillan said: “Scotland is unique in having a licensing system which requires licensing boards to consider the protection and improvement of public health when taking decisions about licensing.
“But we need to make sure this principle is put into practice. With the majority of alcohol sold in Scotland bought from supermarkets, and most people drinking at home, we need to shift the focus of licensing away from individual on-sales premises to managing the overall availability of alcohol.”
Alcohol Focus hopes the findings will help councils regulate licensing with a view to reducing “both the harm caused by alcohol and the cost to the public purse”.
Dr Peter Rice, chairman of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, said it was “very supportive of the role of licensing boards in improving public health”.
He said: “Our members working in the frontline of health services know only too well how important prevention is. Effective regulation, particularly in the off-sales sector, is essential to reduce alcohol-related illness in Scotland.”
New Scottish health secretary Alex Neil said the figures “demonstrate the alcohol misuse problem costs Scotland £3.6bn per year”.
He said: “Alcohol sales are still unacceptably high. In particular, sales in the off-trade have increased significantly since the mid-1990s, driven by very cheap alcohol prices, particularly in supermarkets.”
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