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Health First An evidence-based alcohol strategy for the UK

Alcohol is taken for granted in the UK today. It is easy to get hold of, increasingly aff ordable, adverti sed everywhere and accepted by many as an integral part of daily life.

Yet, despite this, the great majority of the populati on recognise the harm that alcohol causes. They believe that drinking damages health, drives anti social behaviour, harms children and families and creates huge costs for the NHS and the Police.

They are right. Every year in the UK, there are thousands of deaths and over a million hospital admissions related to drinking. More than two in fi ve (44%) violent
crimes are committ ed under the infl uence of alcohol, as are 37% of domesti c violence incidents. One fi ft h of all violent crime occurs in or near pubs and clubs and 45% of adults avoid town centres at night because of drunken behaviour. The personal, social and economic cost of alcohol has been esti mated to be up to £55bn for England and £7.5bn for Scotland.

None of this should be taken for granted. The impact of drinking on public health and community safety is so great that radical steps are needed to change our relationship with alcohol. We need to imagine a society where low or no alcohol consumpti on is the norm, drunkenness is socially unacceptable and town centres are safe and welcoming places for everyone to use. Our vision is for a safer, healthier and happier world where the harm caused by alcohol is minimised.

This vision is achievable. But only if we tackle the primary drivers of alcohol consumpti on. The evidence is clear: the most eff ecti ve way to reduce the harm from alcohol is to reduce the aff ordability, availability and att racti veness of alcohol products. It is not enough to limit the damage once people are drunk, dependent, ill or dying. We need to intervene earlier in order to reduce consumpti on across the enti re populati on. The tools are available. The ‘four Ps’ of the marketi ng mix – price, product, promoti on and place – are used by alcohol producers and retailers to increase their sales of alcohol. They can also be used by government to reduce alcohol sales, alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm.