Public Issues: Alcohol
What is our perspective as Quakers?
QAAD approaches public issues on alcohol from the evidence base, and from our values as Quakers. Evidence tells us that some groups, and some people, are more vulnerable to developing alcohol problems than others – mainly because of social or personal factors. However, there is also considerable evidence that the affordability of alcohol, its availability, and cultural attitudes each have a bearing on how widespread alcohol problems become. Inequalities in society also have a bearing. For QAAD, addressing these factors links with our Quaker witness of responding to ‘that of God in everyone’ and our belief in the importance of community and connectedness. For us, this translates into the following measures:
Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol
The affordability of alcohol has dropped significantly relative to income in the last thirty years, whilst alcohol-related health problems have risen. The Chief Medical Officer, Royal College of Physicians, Alcohol Concern and many health bodies that have united in the Alcohol Health Alliance, have all concluded that a minimum price per unit of alcohol would be one of the most effective ways of reducing harm. We accept this evidence and support minimum unit pricing. We hope that the Westminster government will follow Scotland’s example and put this into law. We hope that the legal challenge concerning the law in Scotland will soon be resolved.
A ‘public health’ objective in the Alcohol Licensing Act of 2003
We would like to see the Westminster government adopt ‘promoting and improving public health’ as one of the objectives of the Alcohol Licensing Act. Scotland has already done this.
In practical terms, it means, for example, that local licensing authorities can take health effects into account when they are considering the number and nature of licensing applications and it gives them influence on how premises are managed. More broadly, it means that reducing the health problems caused by alcohol would become more fully integrated into national policy.
Reducing the permitted blood alcohol limit for drivers
The UK has one of the highest permitted levels of alcohol in Europe at 80 mg for every 100 millilitres of blood. Once again, Scotland has led the way by reducing this to 50mg, thus bringing it in line with EU recommendations and the limit in most of Europe.
The NICE report of 2010 estimated that drivers with a BAC of between 50 and 80 mg have a six fold increase in risk of dying in a vehicle crash compared with drivers who had consumed no alcohol. Adopting the 50 mg would further reduce the casualty and fatality figures from drink drive accidents that have been achieved over the years.
We have argued for mandatory labelling rather than the current voluntary arrangements, in order to ensure that clear, legible information on the ingredients and the units contained in all forms of alcohol are available. Health-based brief advice could be part of this.
Appropriate Support and Treatment for those who need it
Alcohol has been relatively poorly resourced in comparison with other drugs and we believe this balance should be corrected, including through the provision of support for close others and children. We have also suggested that the spiritual dimension of dependency treatment be more widely addressed and welcome the fact that this is beginning to happen.
When the opportunity arises to make representations on these subjects through public consultations, QAAD has done so. Our briefing on Minimum Unit Pricing from 2012 sets out the issues and the evidence-base from which we have worked.
QAAD makes submissions as a Listed Informal Group of the Religious Society of Friends. These are rooted in our Quaker values, but we do not speak for the Religious Society of Friends as a whole.
Click here for QAAD’s briefing on Minimum Unit Pricing