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New alcohol education campaigns launched in England and Scotland

New government alcohol health education campaigns have been launched in both England and Scotland. While separate, the two campaigns share the aim of warning drinkers of the dangers to health of regularly exceeding the sensible drinking guidelines.

Don’t let drink sneak up on you

The new Department of Health Change 4 Life campaign in England warns drinkers that there is an increased risk from serious illness, including heart disease, stroke and cancer, if they drink just a little bit more than they should. The campaign, including TV adverts, stresses that drinking even slightly over the lower-risk alcohol guidelines can seriously impact long-term health. The adverts highlight that regularly drinking around two large glasses of wine or two strong pints of beer a day triples the risk of developing mouth cancer and doubles the risk of developing high blood pressure.

A new survey for the Department of Health revealed that most people are unaware of the serious illnesses caused by drinking more than the guidelines.

For example:

  • 85% of people did not realise it increases the risk of developing breast cancer
  • 66% did not realise it increases the risk of bowel cancer
  • 63% did not realise it increases the chance of pancreatitis
  • 59% did not realise it increases the risk of mouth, throat and neck cancer
  • 30% did not realise it increases the risk of high blood pressure; and
  • 37% did not realise it reduces fertility

A new online calculator is available on the Change4Life website to help people check how much they are drinking and work out whether they need to cut down. Two million leaflets are also available for Change4Life supporters and health professionals around the country.

The campaign also offers handy hints and tips on how people can cut down – such as having booze free days, not drinking at home before people go out, swapping to low-alcohol or alcohol free drinks and simply using smaller glasses.

Secretary of State, Andrew Lansley said:

“It’s crucial we support people to know about how drinking too much poses risks to their health and how they can take control of their drinking. It can be easy to slip into the habit of having a few extra drinks each day, especially when drinking at home. But there can be serious health risks. Don’t let drinking sneak up on you.

“Change4Life is a fantastic, well known campaign, that has already helped a million families around the country. I want to expand it beyond eating well and moving more, so people look after themselves and really do live longer.”

Sarah Lyness, Executive Director of Policy and Information at Cancer Research UK, said:

“Alcohol can increase the risk of seven types of cancer, including two of the commonest kinds - breast and bowel cancers. And a recent study showed that nearly 12,500 cancers in the UK each year are caused by alcohol.

“The risk of cancer starts to go up even at quite low levels of drinking, but the more people cut back on alcohol, the more they can reduce the risk. Small changes can really make a difference – so try swapping a glass of wine or beer for a soft drink or having a few alcohol-free days a week.”

Scottish Campaign

The new Scottish Government’s Alcohol Behaviour Change campaign focuses on encouraging women to ‘Drop a Glass Size’ in 2012. Figures in the Scottish Health Survey show that around 38% of women regularly exceed daily and/or weekly sensible drinking guidelines. It is possible for a woman to exceed the weekly guidelines for less than £3. It is estimated that 1 in 30 female deaths in Scotland is alcohol-related.

The campaign encourages people to make small changes to the way they drink, such as alternating alcohol with soft drinks or water and having two alcohol-free days a week. The initiative, which also includes a national roadshow, aims to educate Scots about what they’re drinking, how much is too much and how they can moderate their drinking. As part of the campaign, a new ‘drinking time machine’ smart phone app has been developed to show people the shocking effects of regularly drinking too much. The app is available exclusively from the Scottish Government free for one month and will show users how alcohol speeds up the aging process. Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Nicola Sturgeon said:

“Evidence shows us that most people who drink alcohol, particularly at home, have no idea of how much they are actually consuming. This campaign aims to show people how small changes to their drinking habits can have a significant impact on their health and wellbeing.

“Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol is now widely recognised and much has been done in the last five years to address this. Our alcohol framework outlined a package of over 40 measures to reduce alcohol-related harm. We have made considerable progress including banning quantity discounts and restricting promotions on off-sales. And we have invested a record £155 million over the last four years to tackle alcohol misuse.

“However I have been clear that there is more that can and must be done. Alongside educational efforts such as this campaign the introduction of the Minimum Pricing Bill is a significant step forward. There is a clear link between the price of alcohol and consumption levels, which is why we have always made the case for the introduction of a minimum price.

“The support in favour of minimum pricing is now overwhelming, and I hope that, this time around, Scotland’s MSPs will do the right thing and back this policy.”

Audrey Birt, Scotland Director at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, comments:

“We’re happy to be supporting this new campaign from the Scottish Government. We’ve known for some time that regularly drinking alcohol can increase the risk of developing breast cancer as well as causing other health problems. The good news is women can reduce their risk of developing the disease in a number of ways, including decreasing their alcohol intake, as well as maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active.”

The nationwide campaign will feature three different sized wine glasses to emphasise the central theme of the initiative. The three different sized wine glasses highlight that by making a small change such as dropping a glass size women can see and feel a big difference in their health and well-being now and in the long term.

 

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