Tag Archives: Tobacco

UK has the most delusional drinkers

A couple of days ago the Guardian covered the news story regarding the publishing of the 2014 Global Drug Survey (GDS) and you can read the full article here.  The title of this blog post is taken from the Independent’s coverage of the survey which also said that ‘one in three dependent drinkers in the UK thinks they consume less than the average amount’.

The 2014 GDS questioned almost 80,000 drug users from 43 countries, and is the largest research of its kin.  It found that alcohol was the most common drug taken, followed by tobacco and cannabis.

Winstock described the extent of alcohol abuse in the UK as “very worrying”. “Many countries are clueless about alcohol, but the UK and Ireland are the most clueless, ” he said. “People just have no idea when they are drinking at very dangerous levels.” According to the survey, 60% of respondents demonstrated a medium, high or dependent level of alcohol problems. Just below 15% said they could not stop drinking once they had started at least monthly , while 17% reported feelings of guilt or regret after drinking at least monthly over the last year. Of the 7% who demonstrated dependency levels, only 39% recognised their drinking was dangerous, while 34.5% thought they drank an average or below-average amount.

John, whose answers suggested “dependency” or a high level of alcohol problems, said he didn’t feel his drinking had much of an impact on his life. “It’s just part of the culture,” the 40-year-old PR manager said. He described various drinking mishaps, including seeing his ex-boss try to have a fight with a double-decker bus. “You drink with clients and there are events with free alcohol almost every night. Drink, drink, drink – it’s just normal.”After looking at his consumption on the GDS drinksmeter, he said the results were “terrifying”, adding: “Maybe I need to calm down.”

If you would like anonymous, personalised feedback on your drinking then go to http://www.drinksmeter.com/.  The drinks meter app provides you with instant feedback on your drinking. It compares your drinking against the Drinks Meter community to give unbiased, anonymous feedback.

Alright,  move on, nothing to see here ……. 😉





Health Warning

In the UK cigarette’s have carried a Government health warning, in it’s simplest form, since 1971.  These warnings were increased in size in 1991 and then again in 2003 so that now 40% of the packaging display is covered.  Plus in 2008 the graphic picture warnings were introduced.


What does this have to do with alcohol you may be asking?  Well I guess my question is – why doesn’t booze carry the same kind of warning?  See, if you check the list of many of the warnings now given on cigarettes (which you can see listed here) many of them are equally applicable to alcohol.

So why doesn’t a bottle of wine, spirits or can of beer carry the message  ‘Drinking is highly addictive, don’t start’ or ‘Drinking when pregnant harms your baby’?  High blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, cancer, impotence and reduced fertility, aging of the skin, premature death?  Booze will do this too not just the fags.

Alcohol is carcinogenic because alcohol (ethanol) is metabolized in the liver, where it produces acetylaldehyde, a chemical that the International Agency for Research on Cancer has designated as a carcinogen (this was in 1988).  Alcohol creates the greatest cancer risks in the upper respiratory tract, liver, colon, rectum and breast as found in a meta-analysis of 229 studies of cancer in 19 sites of the body (source).

Now you could argue that these statements only apply if you are a heavy drinker but the same could be said for cigarettes.  The more you smoke the greater the risk, right?  So I just wonder when it will be that these warnings will replace the existing somewhat ambiguous, and often tiny part of the advertisement, ‘drink responsibly’ message currently displayed on alcohol.  And what does that mean exactly anyway?

By using a personal responsibility message the cynical might argued that the supplier of the product is putting the onus on the consumer not the manufacturer.  How else would a court be able to consider criminalising a women who drinks during pregnancy and causes harm to her child?  This completely avoids the issue of the nature of the substance being addictive.  Now if the bottle of wine that a pregnant women picked up to drink stated clearly that consuming it would harm her child then it could be argued that she was culpable but it does not.

Cigarette’s also carry the message that ‘Your doctor or your pharmacist can help you stop smoking’ or ‘Get help to stop smoking: consult your doctor/pharmacist’.   Pity alcohol doesn’t have these health advice message’s too …….

Edited to add: Alcohol Justice in the US released this on 26th Feb ‘There is no determined safe limit for alcohol consumption with regard to cancer risk’  and ‘daily alcohol consumption of as little as 1.5 drinks accounts for up to 35% of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in the United States’. Read more here: http://alcoholjustice.org/press-room/press-releases/988-alcohol-is-a-leading-cause-of-cancer-even-with-moderate-use.html

Alcohol test case

It’s funny how one idea leads to another.  The friend who mentioned Waterloo Road asked if I’d heard on the news about the guy in the States who was suing a casino for lending him $500,000 while he was ‘blacked out’ drunk which he then gambled away.  As the Telegraph reported “Eventually, having had 30 drinks in 17 hours, he blacked out and it was only after he woke up that he realised how much he had lost.”

Whilst looking for this story I found a news report about a landmark test case regarding drinking alcohol whilst pregnant.  This interests me as when I submitted my article to the Guardian for publishing a paragraph was removed by the editor which read:

This is very worrying when research has shown that the leading known cause of people born with learning disabilities in the western world is Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and 1 in 100 live births in the UK and US have neurodevelopmental damage caused by alcohol.  Yet this isn’t brought to our attention.

Why the editor removed it I have no idea and they have final editorial rights so I’m not complaining.  The piece in The Independent was discussing a landmark test case, due to be heard by the Court of Appeal, that could criminalise excessive drinking during pregnancy and it made me think of this removed paragraph about FAS.

The Telegraph article detailed how “It will be argued that a six-year-old girl is the victim of a crime because she suffered brain damage when she was exposed to alcohol in the womb – a risk that her mother was aware of, Sky News has reported.

The case comes amid a 50 per cent rise in Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in the past three years, with 313 damaged from exposure to alcohol in the womb in 2012/2013.”

Sue Brett, the adoptive mother of 15-year-old Glenn who was born with FAS after his mother drank excessively, said women need to be better alerted to the dangers.

She told the news channel: “It should be to abstain from alcohol throughout pregnancy. You can’t make it a criminal offence if you are still legally saying this is a safe amount to drink or you can drink.

”It needs to be clear from the start that you can’t drink.”

So two recent legal cases where alcohol is under the spotlight and where people are claiming damages because of it’s direct impact or influence.  Is this the thin end of the wedge for the drinks industry, in the same way that the first landmark case about smoking and claims made against the tobacco industry opened the door and led to the truth being exposed about the damaging effect of this other highly addictive substance?

Jumping up and down on my soapbox!

You’ll have to forgive me as I am a little fired up today and am about to express a bit of a rant!  I’ve spent the day in smoking cessation training, which is the UK public health universal health promotion programme implemented in 2011, aimed at encouraging and supporting all people to stop smoking.  It is a fantastic resource that is promoted in all health environments whether hospitals, GP surgeries or community and supermarket pharmacies.  I should know how good it is as this was how I finally quit the weed – with the use of nicotine replacement therapy and behavioural change support.

So many of the tips and tricks I learned when giving up smoking have been invaluable in quitting the drink.  And therein lies the rub.  If I want to give up smoking I am inundated in support options from the NHS whereas with drinking there is very little health promotion or support options until my drinking becomes very problematic and basically a physical addiction.  There are excellent targeted support services once that happens but nothing to support me to stop it reaching that point.  I am pretty sure that all the alcoholics I cared for on the ward where I worked didn’t take their first drink and intend to end up where they did.  It is such a ubiquitous substance which is perceived by most as benign and almost healthy (the benefit of a glass of red wine a day for decreasing risk of heart disease springs to mind).

It would be relatively easy to use all the materials, staff and services that have been developed to support giving up smoking for supporting drink reduction too as so many of the principles are the same because they are both harmful addictive substances.  Smokefree, the UK programme, is aimed not at harm reduction but at complete stopping which is understandable seeing as tobacco is associated with most cancers.  The equivalent alcohol programme needn’t be an abstinence policy but a health promotion harm reduction policy.

What I have to bear in mind though is that Sir Richard Doll established the link between lung cancer and smoking in 1950 and it has taken until now for public health to get almost fully behind this known fact – so only 60 years!  Is it going to take as long again for the risks and harm of alcohol to be addressed in the same way?  I hope not as I have young children and am optimistic that things like the internet will speed up awareness, sharing of knowledge and the change process.

Day 59 and rant over 🙂

Warming up

First things first, day 38.  Almost 6 weeks.  Not the first time I’ve gone this amount of time without alcohol.  I used to smoke and in the many attempts to quit would always stop drinking as the two were so closely associated in my head.  So every time I stopped smoking for the first 3 months I would stop drinking.  So my personal bests begin once I get beyond 90 days.  That’s part of the reason for doing Belle’s 100 day challenge 🙂

Another part of the desire to start this process was because I believed I wasn’t creative.  This belief came from not being allowed to do Art as one of my school exam options.  I was told I wasn’t good enough.  Ergo – I am not creative.  It was only many years later that I said this to a manager of mine who then complimented me on my creative problem solving skills.  Oh so maybe I was a bit creative after all.  So this blogging experience for me is about warming up and stretching my creative muscles to see just how true that statement still is.