Friday, October 15, 2010

Alcohol deregulation wreaks havoc in U.K.


Our Prevention Department was recently given a DVD, the production of which was underwritten by the Center for Alcohol Policy. It was entitled: “The Dangers of Alcohol Deregulation: The United Kingdom Experience vs. American Alcohol Regulation.”

The DVD presentation is very short, but also very informative. It highlights a study (with the same title as the DVD) that Pam Erickson, a former alcohol regulator here in the U.S., conducted on the effects of alcohol deregulation in the United Kingdom (UK), which she believes to be the center of the country’s current “epidemic.”

Here are some of the key points:

1. According to Erickson’s study, which includes information on problems that were identified by members of the British Parliament, there is virtually “no effective regulation” of alcohol at the regional or national level in the U.K. The production’s narrator contrasts this situation with that of the U.S., where alcohol is regulated by each state.

2. Another difference between our two countries is that there is a clear distinction between manufacturers and retailers here in the U.S. The narrator characterizes the purpose of this distinction well: “To provide transparency and accountability.” There is very little such distinction in Britain.
“In the U.K.,” says the narrator, “large international retailers have seen an increase in their ability to drive volume sales.”

3. Alcohol is very inexpensive in the U.K. Retailers sell alcoholic beverages at prices below cost in order to lure customers.

4. In addition to being cheap, alcohol is also available 24/7 in the U.K.

The chart above includes some of the statistics that correlate with the U.K.’s alcohol deregulation. Sorry I couldn't make it bigger -- the first set of bars represents the number of youth who reported drinking alcoholic beverages in the last month, the second represents the number of 15-16-year-olds who reported having been drunk in the past month.

In the year 2006, the following alcohol-related illnesses were reported in the U.K. (Source: Hospital Episode Statistics, The Information Centre, 2008):
o 15,900 acute intoxications
o 14,800 cases of liver disease
Erickson urges the U.S. not to go down the same path, because “it’s going to put us on a slope that will bring us the same kind of problems that they have today in the United Kingdom.”
Chart Statistics courtesy of: European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (Youth Drinking) and European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPA) Report, Substance Abuse Among Students in 35 Countries (Youth Ages 15-16 Who Were Drunk).

1 comment:

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