In 2009 “Changing Scotland’s Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action” was published by the Scottish Government outlining the ways in which it hoped to combat the various health and social problems which exist as a result of the attitudes towards alcohol in Scotland today, highlighting “the need to take action to rebalance Scotland’s relationship with alcohol…to maximise our potential as individuals, families, communities, and as a country” (Scottish Government, 2009, p. ).
Amongst the many recommendations of how this can be achieved, introducing a minimum price for the sale of alcohol was one which it was proposed should be enshrined in law; consequently, The Alcohol Minimum Pricing (Scotland) Act (2012) was passed by the Scottish Parliament. The aim of this report is to assess how this legislation will impact upon young people in Scotland and their attitudes towards alcohol.
It is intended this end shall be met through examining current relevant research, considering comparative international studies, and with reference to an interview (Appendix 1) with a senior manager from a community based project designed to engage with this issue (in order to adhere to recognised ethical practice and confidentiality the interviewee will remain anonymous, but has given full consent to allow all comments and remarks to be used in reference to the topic being discussed as part of this report).
Alcoholic drinks, in todays society, have become an accepted part of social life. However, when alcohol is mixed with driving, catastrophic consequences can occur. In fact, 1 in 5 fatal accidents on our roads are directly related to alcohol. Is our government doing enough to deter people from drinking and driving? Each week, around 11 people die from driving above the legal limit, just under half ...
It is hoped the most significant effect of this measure of control will be reduced alcohol consumption.
It has long been known how damaging excessive use or misuse of alcohol can be to a person’s health, however, as outlined within the aforementioned Scottish Government framework, it is necessary to tackle the wider social issues also. The “Independent Review of the Effects of Alcohol Pricing and Promotion”, a study by the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield (ScHARR), outlined the positive impact such a policy can have upon those issues directly associated with excessive and irresponsible alcohol consumption.
It determined there is a correlation between price increases and demand for alcohol, establishing increased pricing directly corresponds to a reduction in harm from alcohol misuse. Significantly, it also found that the availability of cheap alcohol is particularly attractive to harmful drinkers and young people (Booth et al, 2008).
Effects of alcohol misuse Since 1980 alcohol has become 70% more affordable contributing to a rise in consumption of 19% in the last twenty years (Scottish Government, 2009).
It is calculated that around 50% of men and 30% of women throughout Scotland regularly exceed recommended weekly guidelines for the amount of alcohol which should be consumed, outlined by the Chief Medical Officer as 21 units and 14 units of alcohol respectively (Scottish Government, 2009).
This has resulted in almost 40,000 hospital discharges related directly to injuries and illnesses associated with alcohol in 2009-10, as well as doubling the alcohol associated mortality rate since the end of the 1980’s (NHS Scotland, 2010).
The consequences for the health of the population as a result of the culture of drinking in Scotland today may worsen, as indicated by a study carried out by the journal Paediatrics. Across six European countries including Scotland this study undertook to discover how young people were influenced by their exposure to alcohol in movies, and indicated around 35 % of children in Scotland had “binge” drank at least once by the age of 13 (for the purposes of the study binge drinking equalled five drinks or more in one session).
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These were the second-highest figures of any country involved, and particularly concerning when compared to Iceland which returned a figure of 6%. The implications for the future health and economic costs for the people of Scotland are understandably worrying (Hanewinkel et al, 2011).
The SALSUS (Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey) Report of 2010 (Black et al, 2010) was a survey of 13 and 15 year olds and their habits involving smoking, alcohol and drugs. Completed by over 37,000 school pupils, it helped identify current habits of young people in relation to alcohol.
The survey discovered that 76% of 15 year olds had been drunk at least once and 20% regularly drank once a week. It should be noted that this figure had decreased from 26% when the same survey had been completed in 2008, with aggregated information pointing to an identifiable reduction in certain trends and the frequency of drinking amongst both age groups since peaking in 2002. Nonetheless, this should not suggest that the rates of alcohol consumption amongst teenagers should not continue to be a concern.
Of those 15 year olds who had ever had a drink the survey found 34% had an argument as a result of their drinking and 19% had been in trouble with the police. Additionally, alcohol consumption levels amongst participants indicated a correlation between areas of deprivation and family structure and stability, as well as family attitudes to alcohol. Seemingly all the indicators signify that a culture of drinking has been inherited by Scotland’s children, with the associated problems certain to follow (Black et al, 2010).
In order to determine what impact minimum pricing legislation will have on the culture and habits of drinking in Scotland it is worthwhile examining the effects of similar strategies which have taken place elsewhere. The American Journal of Public Health published a study by the Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia which looked into the effects of minimum pricing of alcohol in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Their experience indicated that as little as a 10% increase in minimum prices could have a significant impact on drinking trends (Stockwell et al, 2010).
I walked into the house where the 'party of the century' was going to be held. I was psyched to be going. At the time I was a little naive freshman invited to my first official high school party at a senior's house. I was at the party no more than 30 minutes when this boy offered me a drink. Thinking nothing of it, I agreed. He brought back a half-filled cup. Before I took a sip, I recognized a ...
Through analysis of data supplied by the government of British Columbia as part of an observational study measuring alcohol sales and prices over twenty years, then correlating this with additional local economic factors, the study ultimately found that a substantial reduction in alcohol consumption was the outcome of implementing pricing controls. How does this parallel between an increase in price and reduction in consumption translate when applied specifically to young people in Scotland?
It is possible to gain an understanding of what the impact may be from the experience of those directly involved in services aimed at challenging the culture of alcohol misuse amongst young people. One such service is Liber8 Lanarkshire, a project with that specific endeavour as its core focus, providing intervention for those young people who have developed, or are developing, a dangerous relationship with alcohol, as well as promoting an alternative and healthy lifestyle model for any young people they work with.
Based in Viewpark in North Lanarkshire, it provides information and education about the dangers and harm associated with alcohol. However, Liber8’s primary function is to carry out street-based interventionist strategies to engage with local young people in order to interact with the youth community and understand their attitudes towards alcohol. They offer alternative activities such as sports and games that those teenagers they encounter might not have access to, and attempt to help introduce young people to a variety of substitutes to drinking.
One senior manager within the project has seen great progress made by this local service since its inception in 2006, through developing a relationship of trust with the young people in the area as well as creating awareness of the issues they face as a result of the many problems surrounding alcohol. When asked how they felt the minimum pricing strategy would impact upon local teenagers it was their opinion that it may have little effect, stating: “It is true that there is a preference for cheaper drinks like cider and alcopops (sic) amongst the local kids, but whatever money they tend to have is all disposable income.
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They don’t have much else to spend their money on, so unless you make those drinks particularly expensive they will still probably be able to afford it”, adding, “It is currently possible to purchase your weekly recommended amount of alcohol units for less than ? 4”. They believe there is little chance any price control that does not significantly increase the cost of drinking for young people (the proposed minimum price of 50p per unit would ensure a two-litre bottle of supermarket own brand cider retails at ? 4. 20) will alone have any profound effect on this culture of alcohol misuse.
Although they do recognise and endorse the merits of such controls, acknowledging the benefits if implemented as part of a wider series of complimentary strategies. Alternative and Complimentary Strategies If the attitudes towards alcohol amongst young people in Scotland today are to be altered what additional strategies are available to achieve this? Along with Getting It Right for Every Child (GiRFEC), the recommendations outlined in “Changing Scotland’s Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action” include far wider-ranging proposals than simply legislation.
It was recognised that working in conjunction with agencies both nationally and locally to improve alcohol misuse education in Scottish schools is imperative as the first stage of preventative strategies and intervention against this problem. Through this measure children can be encouraged to make positive lifestyle choices by learning the facts and developing educated attitudes towards the issue in question.
GiRFEC outlines that all children should be “safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included” (Scottish Government, 2012) and if they are exposed to the dangers and effects of alcohol then clearly this is not the case. In addition, it is identified as necessary to support and develop new and varied opportunities for children in the areas of arts, sports and culture that will encourage physical and personal growth and development.
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It is anticipated that these initiatives, introduced at an early age, will increase the probability of positive outcomes and lifestyle choices for those children in the future (Scottish Government, 2009).
Not all proposals outlined within the framework present clear and distinct strategies for intervention, such as the notion that youth workers, or those who work closely with young people, should be able to identify unhealthy patterns of behaviour related to alcohol misuse and intervene wherever necessary.
Although desirable that this should be the case, it is unlikely that without designated formal training or identifiable support networks to empower workers in such situations will it be possible to achieve this. The findings of two linked research reviews by the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, published as one report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, “Children, Young People and Alcohol: How They Learn and How to Prevent Excessive Use”, indicates family influence is of significant importance in developing and informing young peoples’ attitudes.
It highlights secure family structures and processes, such as regularly eating together, are shown to have a positive effect on young people’s attitudes and relationship with alcohol. Interventions based around the family are most successful, although interventions based around altering peer influence can work also.
This report suggests a number of strategies which together could form “an integrated, planned and implemented community prevention system” and these include: educational and school programmes; parental education and training; stringent enforcement of the laws pertaining to the purchasing of alcohol by underage persons; and, crucially, the implementation of policy to change and control the price and availability of alcohol (Velleman, 2009).
These conclusions reinforce the approach and strategies laid out within the Scottish Government’s framework.
The Scottish Youth Commission on Alcohol (implemented as part of the framework) was challenged by Scottish Ministers with identifying suitable proposals for policy change in relation to these issues. Their report outlined forty recommendations relating to accessibility and availability, as well as the advertising and marketing, of alcohol; and also proposed structures for educational awareness, emotional support and personal safety all in relation to young people’s relationship with alcohol (The Scottish Youth Commission on Alcohol, 2009).
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With consideration of the information outlined and discussed throughout this report it is apparent the issues surrounding young people and alcohol in Scotland today are both extensive and complex. The introduction of The Alcohol Minimum Pricing (Scotland) Act (2012) is almost certain to have an impact on Scottish society and the attitudes and habits of drinking therein, however in order to eliminate the many associated issues, particularly involving young people and teenagers, it is necessary to provide wide reaching and varied forms of education and intervention as well as legislative controls on pricing and marketing.
Most significantly it would appear that challenging the relationship with alcohol that is developed by the time a person reaches adolescence is too late and must take place from an earlier age. The influence of family on attitudes of young people has been identified as being as important as that of peers, and as we have seen that influence can be linked to deprivation, poverty and family instability; and as those issues continue to be challenged there will no doubt be an improvement in alcohol related problems.
Reducing consumption of alcohol by increasing price is one step in the right direction and in the long term will have a significant impact upon the associated health and social issues. However, how long that may take is unknown, and for now it will remain just a hope that in Scotland the generation emerging today will have a healthier relationship with alcohol tomorrow. (Word count: 2200) References Scottish Government (2009).
Changing Scotland’s Relationship With Alcohol: A Framework for Action. Retrieved from: www. scotland. gov. k/Topics/Health/Services/Alcohol/FrameworkforActionProgressReport Booth, A. et al. (2008).
The Independent Review of the Effects of Alcohol Pricing and Promotion. Retrieved from: http://www. shef. ac. uk/polopoly_fs/1. 95624! /file/SummaryofEvidence. pdf Scottish Government (2009).
Changing Scotland’s Relationship With Alcohol: A Framework for Action. Retrieved from: www. scotland. gov. uk/Topics/Health/Services/Alcohol/FrameworkforActionProgressReport Scottish Government (2009).
Changing Scotland’s Relationship With Alcohol: A Framework for Action.
Retrieved from: www. scotland. gov. uk/Topics/Health/Services/Alcohol/FrameworkforActionProgressReport NHS Scotland (2011).
Alcohol Statistics Scotland 2011. Retrieved from: http://www. alcoholinformation. isdscotland. org/alcohol_misuse/files/alcohol_stats_bulletin_2011_updated_110413. pdf Hanewinkel, r. et al (2011).
Alcohol Consumption in Movies and Adolescent Binge Drinking in 6 European Countries. Retrieved from: Paediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Paediatrics website: http://pediatrics. aappublications. rg/content/early/2012/02/29/peds. 2011-2809. full. pdf+html Black, C. et al. (2010).
Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) National Report. Retrieved from: http://www. drugmisuse. isdscotland. org/publications/local/SALSUS_2010. pdf Black, C. et al. (2010).
Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) National Report. Retrieved from: http://www. drugmisuse. isdscotland. org/publications/local/SALSUS_2010. pdf Stockwell, T. et al. (2010).
Does Minimum Pricing Reduce Alcohol Consumption?
The Experience of a Canadian Province. Retrieved from The American Journal of Public Health website: http://ajph. aphapublications. org/doi/abs/10. 2105/AJPH. 2012. 301094 Scottish Government (2012).
A Guide to Getting it Right For Every Child. Retrieved from: http://www. scotland. gov. uk/Resource/0041/00411151. pdf Scottish Government (2009).
Changing Scotland’s Relationship With Alcohol: A Framework for Action. Retrieved from: www. scotland. gov. uk/Topics/Health/Services/Alcohol/FrameworkforActionProgressReport Velleman, R. (2009).
Children, Young People and Alcohol: How They Learn and How to Prevent Excessive Use. Retrieved from: http://www. jrf. org. uk/sites/files/jrf/children-and-alcohol-use. pdf The Scottish Youth Commission on Alcohol (2010).
Report of Recommendations. Retrieved from: http://www. youngscot. net/media/12177/syca_recommendations. pdf Appendix 1 Interview Questions How long have you been involved with Liber8 and what is your background within project work or social services? In your opinion is there a problem relating to teenage alcohol misuse within the local community?
What are the effects of this alcohol misuse within the community and local area? In your experience what are the causes or main contributory factors towards this issue? Do you think the issue has persisted, improved or worsened in the time you have been involved with Liber8? What interventions do Liber8 use in counteracting the effects of alcohol misuse amongst teenagers? How do local teenagers and young people find out about Liber8? What collaborative work, if any, do you undertake with other agencies or services? Are you familiar with similar projects throughout Scotland? If so, do you see