Drink and Drugs News DDN Feb2018 - Page 5

read the full stories, and more, online www.drinkanddrugsnews.com INTRODUCE CIGARETTE-STYLE LABELLING FOR ALCOHOL, SAYS PUBLIC HEALTH BODY IT SHOULD BE ‘MANDATORY’ to include the government’s low-risk drinking guidelines of 14 units per week on alcohol labels, says the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), alongside calorie-content information and warnings about drink driving. Labels could also potentially feature ‘explicit cigarette-style warnings of the link with health conditions such as bowel and breast cancer’ as well ‘traffic light’ colour coding, the organisation states. The recommendations form part of a new report, Labelling the point, published in response to a perceived ‘alcohol health awareness vacuum’. Only ten per cent of people are aware of the links between alcohol and cancer, says RSPH, while just 16 per cent are aware of the government’s unit guidelines and only 20 per cent are able to correctly estimate the number of calories in a glass of wine. Including information on calorie content per serving could result in a ten per cent swing in ‘consumer purchasing decisions from the highest alcohol drinks to the lowest’, across all main drink categories and socio-economic groups, the document claims. The report is partly based on a survey of around 1,800 people originally commissioned in partnership with industry body the Portman Group. However, the Portman Group has since ‘moved to make alcohol labels even less informative to the public than they are at present’, says RSPH, by releasing updated guidelines to manufacturers that no longer include the government’s low-risk drinking limits. Unit information alone is ‘largely useless’ to most consumers unless shown in the context of the recommended weekly limits, stresses RSPH. The Portman Group’s updated guidance indicates that the body is ‘no longer serious about setting a challenge for industry to play their part in informing the public and protecting their health’, the royal society adds. ‘Having a drink with friends or family is something many of us enjoy. However, the potential health consequences of alcohol consumption are more serious than many people realise,’ said RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer. ‘If and when people choose to drink, they have the right to do so with full knowledge of both what their drink contains and the effects it could have. Consumer health information and warnings are now mandatory CEASING CESSATION JUST 61 PER CENT OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES now offer smokers access to ‘evidence- based support’, according to a report from Cancer Research UK and ASH. Cuts to the public health budget have meant ‘dramatic changes’ to smoking cessation services, says the document, with at least one English council now having a ‘zero budget’ to address smoking. ‘Shrinking public health budgets make it tougher to provide smokers with quit services while tobacco www.drinkanddrugsnews.com and readily available on most products from tobacco to food and soft drinks, but alcohol continues to lag behind. If we are to raise awareness and reduce alcohol harm, this must change.’ The Portman Group’s decision to ‘weaken’ their labelling recommendations showed that ‘alcohol producers wish to withhold information on alcohol and health from the public’, John tiMothY added Alcohol Health Alliance chair Professor Sir Ian Gilmore. However, Portman Group chief executive John Timothy responded by saying that the original research co-funded with RSPH ‘found little public interest in a radical overhaul of drinks labelling, and strong opposition to cramming more information’ onto packaging. It showed that 86 per cent of consumers ‘only look at labels for factual information and branding’ and 80 per cent wanted to see ‘less cluttered’ labels. ‘When asked specifically about health, 70 per cent said the current approach was about right,’ he stated. ‘These findings support the approach taken by the industry in developing updated voluntary guidance which includes a whole section on how producers can display the CMO’s guidelines on labels,’ he continued. ‘To suggest otherwise is misrepresentative. The Portman Group remains committed to providing consumers with accurate and accessible health information.’ Report at www.rsph.org.uk there is little public interest in a radical overhaul of drinks labelling. companies pocket a billion in profit every year in the UK,’ said ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott.’ The government should place a levy on the industry to fund the support smokers need.’ Feeling the heat: the decline of stop smoking services in England, at www.cancerresearchuk.org. ‘the government should place a levy on the industry’ deborAh Arnott SCOT CALL THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT should produce a hepatitis C prevention strategy with targets to ‘decrease national incidence, mortality and overall prevalence’, says a report from the Hepatitis C Trust. The document also urges the government to establish opt-out testing in substance misuse services and issue guidance on its effective implementation in prisons. ‘Without renewed efforts to find and treat the thousands of undiagnosed patients living with hepatitis C, Scotland may no longer be considered a world leader in tackling this deadly virus,’ said trust chief executive Charles Gore. Meanwhile, England could be on course to be the first country in the world to eliminate hep C, according to the NHS, with the health service and drug companies working together to identify more people who need treatment. Eliminating hepatitis C in Scotland: a call to action at www.hepctrust.org.uk PRICED OUT MORE THAN 100 MPS , police commissioners, charities and health organisations have called for minimum pricing to be implemented in England ‘immediately’. ‘Lives will be lost if Westminster delays further on the issue’, said an open letter to the Sunday Times signed by representatives of the royal colleges of physicians, psychiatrists, nursing, GPs and anaesthetists, as well as the BMA, Cancer Research UK, the Children’s Society and others. Minimum pricing will be introduced in Scotland in May, following a five-year delay as a result of legal challenges from the drinks industry (DDN, December/January, page 4). A similar delay in England would lead to more than 1,000 deaths and 182,000 alcohol- related crimes, the letter claims, as well as a cost to the NHS of £326m. LANGUAGE MATTERS NEGATIVE PORTRAYALS IN THE MEDIA and politics are reinforcing the perception that drug use is ‘immoral’ and people who use drugs are a threat to society, says a report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy. This in turn increases stigma and discrimination and means that people who use drugs are seen as ‘sub-human, non- citizens, scapegoats for wider societal problems’ and undeserving of the right to health, says The world drug perception problem: countering prejudices about people who use drugs. Policy makers should aim to change perceptions of drugs and people who use them by providing reliable and consistent information, the report urges, while ‘opinion leaders’ in the media should promote the use of non-stigmatising language. Report at www.globalcommissionondrugs.org February 2018 | drinkanddrugsnews | 5