A new survey to better understand the presence of alcohol in people’s communities across Sotland was carried on by the Alcohol Action Group starting December 2020. Below you can read information about the survey and key findings. To read the full report, click on the following link: https://www.sfad.org.uk/content/uploads/2022/09/Alcohol-Everywhere-Report-2022.pdf

1.1. About the Surveys

The Alcohol Action Group was established by Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs in December 2020 to understand the presence of alcohol in people’s communities across Scotland. The group is open to anyone who wants to take actions to reduce alcohol harms and includes family members who are impacted by someone else’s alcohol use, community members, and people working in services and organisations addressing alcohol harm.

In January 2021 the group undertook a survey to understand how widely spread alcohol messages are in everyday life. The survey asked people to note down how many different references to alcohol they noticed in one day1. People could choose how much time they spent observing the presence of alcohol as they carried out their normal daily activities. People were asked to categorise what they were seeing and then reflect generally on what they had observed.

The group chose to do a second survey following the main design of the first in order to create a comparative report that would show differences. Particularly as covid restrictions were easing at the time of the second survey, which was conducted in September and October of 2021. We retained the purpose of the original survey to understand how widely spread alcohol messages are in everyday life. In addition, in our second survey, we wanted to understand to what extent people support or oppose restrictions on certain types of alcohol marketing so that we could gather opinions that could feed into two planned consultations: The UK Government Labelling Consultation and The Scottish Government Marketing Consultation.

The key findings of this report are as follows:

  1. When looking for alcohol references, survey respondents noted a large number over a relatively short time (over 350 between 35 people in the first survey, and over 199 between 28 people in the second survey). This shows just how present alcohol is everywhere in our communities.
  2. Alcohol advertising and references to alcohol are extremely prevalent online and on social media, with the majority of respondents seeing references online in the first survey.
  3. Alcohol-related content online was particularly observed during the first full lockdown, with a large number of jokes and memes being recalled by participants across social media during that time.
  4. Alcohol-related litter is commonplace in our communities, being the second most spotted reference to alcohol in the first survey, and the most spotted reference in the second survey.
  5. Alcohol-references were noted from other daily tasks, such as in conversations, in emails, whilst at the shops and on TV.
  6. Survey respondents noted that alcohol is very much ‘in your face’ wherever you go.
  7. In the first survey, 60% of respondents perceived or experienced that people were drinking more than pre-pandemic, and 100% of respondents in the second survey agreed.
  8. Opinions differed on the impact of the easing of lockdown restrictions on the consumption of alcohol, with some participants perceiving that people were drinking less than in the height of lockdown, while others thought people were drinking more as restrictions eased. Others noted no change, while an increase of drinking alone at home was highlighted.
  9. There was very strong support for alcohol labelling measures. Over 75% of respondents supported health warnings, number of units, warnings around drinking when pregnant or trying to conceive and a drink driving warning to be included on alcohol labels.
  10. There was strong support (between 40% and 70%) for other alcohol labelling measures, including a cancer warning, nutritional information and weekly low risk drinking guidelines.
  11.  In terms of alcohol advertising, the most supported measure (65% of respondents strongly supportive) was to restrict cinema advertising to films rated 18 only.
  12. Restricting TV advertising outside of watershed hours was also moderately supported (51% of participants strongly supportive).
  13. In terms of access to alcohol, the most supported measures were to introduce a ban on the sale of alcohol at self-service checkouts and to introduce alcohol-only checkouts with a specially trained operator (59% of respondents strongly agreed with both measures).
  14. Restricting the visibility of alcohol through the use of alcohol barriers or screens also had support (51% of respondents were strongly supportive).
  15. A small handful of comments suggested alcohol marketing should be banned altogether.
  16. Respondents reflected on the influence of the alcohol industry, noting that profit is often placed above public health.
  17. The rise in the alcohol-free drinks market was noted by respondents, as the alcohol industry has increased production and marketing of alcohol-free alternatives.
  18. The vast majority of respondents were against the marketing of alcohol to those under the age of 18 (legal age to purchase and consume alcohol).
  19. There was a strong recognition that the presence of alcohol in our communities is difficult to avoid, and the difficulties this can cause for people in recovery.
  20. Participants discussed the stigma surrounding both alcohol and drugs, and how often the public view of alcohol can be vastly different to the public view of other substances.
  21. Alcohol is downplayed, normalised and not taken as seriously as drug use.
  22. 100% of survey participants in the second survey said they do not think it is essential to drink alcohol to have a good time.

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