Alcohol Alert 2020 : The Year in Review

As we reach the end of an exceptional year, we can reflect on the alcohol policy news that dominated the headlines.

December ends in the fashion many of us have now grown used to, with stories about our radically altered drinking habits in the wake of a global COVID-19 pandemic, contrasting with data showing next-to-no annual change in the health impacts of drinking habits from the times before the virus hit.

The onset of the UK lockdown from March ‘shifted consumer shopping habits to the extreme’, according to The Grocer magazine’s annual Top Products Survey (18 Dec), with off-trade sales of lager (1st, +£791·9m), table wine (2nd, +£717·4m), spirits (4th, +£566·8m), and cider (10th, +175·2m) all making the list, whereas licensed premises suffered yet another squeeze from the effects of a second lockdown: pubs and bars saw a drop of 56·7% in consumer spend for November compared with last year (Morning Advertiser, 08 Dec).

Meanwhile, NHS Digital’s Health Survey England 2019 told a story of incremental changes in annual alcohol consumption patterns from the previous year. Only 15% of eight to 15-year-olds reported drinking in the last week compared with 2003 (45%), and other trends continued to emerge: older drinkers (especially 55 to 64-year-olds) were most likely to drink above the low risk guidelines, as were drinkers from the northern regions (15 Dec).

Please follow the link to our Substack page for a roundup of the rest of 2020.