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Every child has right to grow up safe from harm, says Alcohol Focus Scotland’s Alison Douglas

Alison Douglas, CEO of Alcohol Focus
Alison Douglas, CEO of Alcohol Focus

EVERY child in Scotland has the right to grow up safe from alcohol-related harm.

While every family’s situation is different, children who live with someone who drinks too much say they feel scared, confused, stressed and angry when their parent is drinking.

They are also at higher risk of experiencing neglect and domestic violence. They often suffer in silence as they don’t know where to get help or are too scared to speak to someone.

Meanwhile, 24 Scots are dying every single week because of alcohol. Their families, all 1265 of them, lost a loved one last year.

A quarter of adults in our country are putting themselves at risk of liver damage, cancer, cardiovascular disease and mental health problems by drinking above the recommended guidelines of 14 units per week.

We hope minimum pricing will finally be introduced next year but there are other things we should be doing to change Scotland’s relationship with alcohol.

We need to ensure the places we live in encourage good health rather than being saturated by alcohol. Alcohol is available pretty much everywhere we spend our leisure time, including shopping centres, sports events, cinemas and coffee shops.

This creates the impression that alcohol is a normal part of everyday life when actually it’s a product that causes significant health and social harm.

Licensing boards have a really important role to play in making decisions that improve the health of the communities they serve.

That means saying no to new licensed premises in areas where there are already too many places to buy alcohol.

Steps must also be taken to restrict alcohol marketing, particularly to protect children who are being targeted as the next generation of drinkers. Exposure to alcohol marketing leads children to start drinking at a younger age and to drink more if they are already drinking.

A survey we carried out found 10 and 11 year olds were more familiar with certain beer brands than leading brands of biscuits, crisps and ice cream.

It’s really worrying that just 13% of people know alcohol can cause cancer and only 8% know what the drinking guidelines are.

We all have a right to accurate information and clear advice about alcohol and its health risks so as well as running a mass media information campaign, governments should compel manufacturers to display prominent health warnings on alcohol labels.

Alison Douglas is Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland.