Holyrood 2021 candidates urged to back alcohol advertising ban in Scotland

Picture: Lisa Ferguson.Picture: Lisa Ferguson.
Picture: Lisa Ferguson.
A Scottish campaign group has called on every candidate in the Holyrood 2021 election to support measures aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm in Scotland.

Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) has asked for a total ban on alcohol advertising, sponsorship and promotion, especially in environments where children and young people may be exposed to them, such as sporting events.

The organisation also suggests a review into minimum unit pricing, which came into effect in 2018, with a possible increase of 50p on the current rate.

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Sales in off-licences and supermarkets dropped by between four and five per cent in the year after its introduction, according to a study by Public Health Scotland earlier this year.

SHAAP said regulations should be created on sales, creating alcohol-only shops and removing drinks from supermarkets, adding government control of alcohol sales should be “seriously explored”.

The group also argued that bold action on alcohol is especially needed as the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated trends towards drinking at home, and is likely to widen existing health inequalities.

SHAAP is a partnership of the Medical Royal Colleges in Scotland and the Faculty of Public Health, based at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

The manifesto calls on all parties and candidates to commit to policies in four focus areas, including investing in and improving treatment and support services, supporting recovery and reducing health inequalities, and protecting children and young people.

It also asks for an urgent review of and increased investment in alcohol treatment and support services in Scotland, and for the development of knowledge and skills regarding alcohol to be an integral part of health and social care staff learning and development.

The manifesto calls on all parties and candidates to commit to: “Enforce total bans on alcohol advertising, sponsorship and promotion,

especially in environments where children and young people are likely to be exposed to these, including at sporting events, or as part of sporting activities.”

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It asks candidates to support and promote alternative sponsorship of sporting events, and promote a “no alcohol, no risk” message for those pregnant or trying to conceive.

SHAAP Chair Dr Peter Rice said: “Covid-19 has shone a light on the patchy and often disjointed nature of alcohol treatment service provision, even prior to lockdown, and we do not yet know what long-term impact the pandemic will have on people’s drinking behaviours, though research so far indicates that heavier drinkers have increased their consumption.

"Our 2021 manifesto highlights cost-effective, evidence-based policies that, if properly implemented, will work to ensure that COVID-19 does not exacerbate alcohol-related harm and health inequalities in Scotland, and that we are able to meet long-term public health goals that are essential if we are to build a healthier, fairer future”.

Interim Director of SHAAP Lindsay Paterson added: “SHAAP recognises that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic we currently face unprecedented challenges to public health in Scotland, and pressure on public finances, but at last estimate problematic use of alcohol cost the Scottish economy £3.56 billion per year – now is the time for bold action on alcohol problems, and our 2021 Manifesto shows where we need to push harder and go further to take this action”.

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