Herald Scotland, 6 December 2022
ALAN Simpson’s article on alcohol marketing and promotion (“Hiding alcohol will do nothing to stop scourge of problem drinking”, The Herald, December 2) could have been written by the Scotch Whisky Association itself.
And let’s not overlook the fact that this trade body’s membership includes some of the biggest names in the production of cheap vodka – the same cheap vodka that is often consumed by people who are drinking at hazardous and harmful levels (nearly one in four of us). Let’s also be clear, the alcohol industry is not an expert in public health, but is expert at maximising profits by driving increased sales in alcohol. It is not in its interests to support measures designed to reduce alcohol consumption which in turn is evidenced to reduce harms and deaths caused by alcohol.
The World Health Organization lists population-wide measures which target the pricing, marketing, and availability of alcohol as the three most effective ways to tackle alcohol harms. This is supported by a vast array of data and examples of impact from around the globe. It is well evidenced that in-store alcohol marketing directly influences how much alcohol is purchased and consumed by individuals, thus driving harms.
Based on this evidence, in November 2020, Ireland introduced a policy of structural separation of alcohol within stores to “reduce alcohol consumption, delay the initiation of alcohol consumption by children and young people and in doing so reduce alcohol-related harms”.
Mr Simpson uses a commonly-used, unrealistic alcohol industry narrative that “the problem is not the drink but the drinkers” and suggests restricting alcohol marketing won’t impact people who are alcohol-dependent. Scotland has a cultural problem with alcohol which impacts on all of us directly or indirectly, in part because of the all-pervasive nature of alcohol marketing in our everyday lives. We need a cultural shift which will only be possible if we see bold preventative policy measures such as restricting alcohol promotion – with the aim of reducing the number of individuals in Scotland reaching harmful or dependent levels of consumption.
SHAAP strongly supports the introduction of restrictions on alcohol marketing, and there is plenty of evidence to back up the Scottish Government’s proposals, should you choose to look.
Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, Chair, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), Edinburgh